“Bokrijk is using its knowledge, expertise, and skill to support the ideas of today and tomorrow, and has everything at hand to be the ‘professional lab’ for innovation, inspiration, and co-creation. Ten designers have drawn their inspiration from a focus on the past in order to create an object, which they will present at the Kortrijk Biennale Interieur. This emphasises that we are on the right path and will continue to develop Bokrijk into a place where past, present, and future come together flawlessly,” said Provincial Deputy for Tourism, Culture, and Heritage and chairman of vzw Het Domein Bokrijk, Igor Philtjens.
BKRK/craftsmanship in Bokrijk
Bokrijk is a place where the heritage of buildings, objects, and traditions that have been handed down in the Flemish rural communities has been preserved for over 60 years. But this hasn’t been a synonym for ‘stuck in the past’ for many years now. Bokrijk has grown into a large park, with a museum, playground, arboretum, and extensive public activities. A repositioning was recently put into motion with various museum projects for the public: ‘De Smidse’ (the smithy), a revamped ‘Speelschuur’ (play barn), and ‘De atelierschuren’ (the workshop barns). Preparations are currently being made for ‘Superette Bokrijk’, under the direction of Kobe Desramaults, which will be housed in the museum as of next spring. The key to this transformation is to clarify the contemporary and future relevance of the heritage. This will be done by creating new kinds of interactions between the buildings, objects, their creators, and the contemporary visitor. Bokrijk as a collection is a treasure trove, an inspirational seedbed, a bearer of traditions that can constantly be translated and used again and again… this is how heritage remains alive and appealing.
Using both themes and future presentations, the visitor will be able to discover this new approach in due course. The focus is on contemporary craftsmanship. The goal is new projects and products that take their inspiration from the past, are inventive in terms of image, materials, and creative process. They are characterised by contemporaneity and relevancy. This must become the new ‘brand’: hence the name ‘bokrijk brandmerkt’ (BKRK) (Bokrijk Branded).
Bokrijk appointed architect and designer Bart Lens to be the curator of this project. Several new projects have been set up under his expert supervision. One of these will appear in premiere at the international 2016 Kortrijk Biennale Interieur.
BKRK/craftsmanship in Kortrijk
Operation BKRK has opted for two leitmotifs in its contemporary interventions: authentic craftsmanship and traditional quality. These also happen to be the typical characteristics of today’s Flemish designers and manufacturers. They are in the DNA of our culture and maintain a certain level of respect for the environment, materials, and life.
The designer/artist/craftsperson is the key. The product: object, artwork, idea, or philosophy that expresses the knowledge that has been passed down and a creative spirit.
The first programme, which coincides with the launch of ‘BKRK - bokrijk brandmerkt’, is the themed, annual design competition for young talent, started in 2014. Leather, ceramics, and wood have been added in the meantime. We will be presenting these original, sustainable, and budget-friendly designs at Kortrijk Biennale Interieur.
A second initiative concerns the redesign of Bokrijk Castle. The castle is currently used as a meeting and encounters space. Lens wanted to let ‘thinkers’ and ‘makers’ work together on a joint project. Ten designers were commissioned to design a contemporary purpose or object for the castle. Five of these have been produced in the meantime and will be presented at the Kortrijk Biennale Interieur. The designs are inspired by the existing pieces in the collection at the open-air museum at Bokrijk, and have a clear connection to the tools and objects used in the past. Craftsmanship, an honest manufacturing process, and a contemporary image are the essence once more.
Bart Lens, curator ‘BKRK - bokrijk brandmerkt’
Bart Lens is an architect and product developer. After graduating in 1982, he initially worked for different architectural firms. He then started his own design firm, LENS°ASS, in 1995. His projects include interior designs, homes, shops, galleries, industrial estates, and residential estates. He has already designed numerous tools and objects, many of which are in production or already available on the market.
The designs, architecture, and objects continue to express a pragmatic, realistic approach to the task linked to a high regard for the materialisation. All design choices are based on a specific atmosphere that he aimed to create. Architecture and objects are not cladding; they are a physical component of the totality of the space. Art is the biggest source of inspiration in this regard.
Bart Lens was a professor of architecture at the CAD in Uccle, as well as guest lecturing at the KULeuven Campus Sint-Lucas Ghent and Brussels since 2004.
Bart Lens has also been the curator of Bokrijk since 2014. His goal is to honour craftsmanship once again and make the social aspect relevant. Beginning with small products, he wants to implement a study into the broader scope of the Bokrijk domain: utilising craftsmanship for new designs, contemporary architecture, honest food, another manner of communication, and creating an experience.
Presentation of the objects
The O-binder, leather
Margot Declerck, 2014 BKRK winner
This tie wrap is a simple design made from leftover leather, with an ingenious link. The product links craftsmanship with innovation and technology. The premise arose from a contemporary, practical problem: how to keep all your cables together neatly. Its relevance is in its practical usability.
No-spoon, ceramic espresso demitasse
Stijn Schauwers, 2015 BKRK winner
This ‘dancing’ demitasse for espresso has a rounded base and double-walled design. Your fingers don’t get burnt by the coffee and the coffee doesn’t cool down because you’re handling your cup. Traditional pottery throwing on a potter’s wheel, creating a mould, and glazing created a surprisingly functional, contemporary demitasse.
Paring knife block, wood
Steven Gauberg, 2016 BKRK winner
The object is an ingeniously small and useful design: a protective holder for a sharp knife. It requires a great deal of skill in woodworking. Gauberg knows all the tricks of the trade, experimenting and perfecting his techniques in solid woodworking. Working with your hands and ‘getting a feel’ for the craft are crucial. This is also a part of the knife block: the grain runs practically perfectly through both parts.
KistKast, solid oak and oil, 2016
This chest was one of the first human furniture designs; a mobile, rectangular storage unit that could be moved. Throughout the centuries, this chest turned into a cupboard. The function remained the same, but the usage has changed significantly. The lid became a door and the partitions became shelves. The ‘KistKast’ has 8 legs, and reflects both the horizontal aspect of the chest as well as the vertical aspect of the cupboard.
LangeTafel4, oak and oil, 2016
The table wasn’t originally intended to remain in one place. Instead, it was set up when and where needed. The Egyptians stored their tables under their beds; in the Middle Ages, the table top was often found leaning against a wall, and the bottom was often a surface for a painting or work of art. ‘LangeTafel4’ is just such a mobile, multifunctional table. Stefan Peters created the artwork found on the bottom.
Table painting, paint on leather and oak
The basis of this piece is a series of paintings entitled ‘Sliced Series’, in which the painted image was literally sliced into vertical strips. These strips, designed as blades, influence the image and add a new spatiality. The medium offers a lot of opportunities for collaboration with other disciplines, like design, sculptural art, or architecture. The ‘Table painting’ is a model of a 4-metre-long table on supports. Just like old table paintings, this piece can be taken apart and hung up as a painting. This is a contemporary study of the landscape painting, or how non-figurative painting can still evoke a suggestion of the landscape.
BKRK chair, solid oak and powder-coated metal, 2016
Studio Segers (Bob and Wim Segers)
Studio Segers designed a candid piece of furniture that can stand the test of time. The three-legged archetypal ‘BKRK chair’, with back, is stackable. The legs are made of rounded, solid oak elements. The seat and back are also solid elements. The seat and legs are connected using metal elements that refer to the way tools are put together. This chair requires craftsmanship; it’s not an industrial product.
One day the hunter becomes the prey, solid poplar, 2016
This sculpture is inspired by a hunting trophy room. Jeuris plays with concepts like ‘the ultimate hunter’, ‘lord and master’, ‘builder’, ‘terrorist?’. This last word brings us right into today (present). “Who is the hunter and who is the prey? What is hunting you in your life?”
In any case, “one day we all become the prey” (future).
Mop rug, 4 x 3 m, 100% pure wool, plaited, manufactured by: Belca
Davy Grosemans - das ding
The mop is perhaps the lowliest product ever created. A bit of cloth, only worthy of cleaning up dirt and filth. When we’re done with it, we hide it away in the storage cupboard, lights out.
But upon closer inspection, it really is a beautiful thing, and not as banal as we might assume. Without our even realising it, the mop has become an icon of Belgian design. The mop has been popular in Belgian households for over a century. Textile manufacturer De Mandel began weaving mops and dishcloths in the 1950s that had a strip in the Belgian national colours. This successful idea of adding the Belgian national colours was soon copied by others. Today, there is only a single Belgian company that still manufactures the one and only Belgian mop.
The mop rug is therefore an ode to the powerful Flemish textile industry of the past, as well an homage to this simple, yet beautiful product. A unique piece, plaited according to traditional methods by one of the very last rug manufacturers in Belgium.