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OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen: Way of Seeing Things

OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen sets architecture in dialogue with art and photography in exhibition Everything Architecture at Bozar Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels. Until 29 May 2016.

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Text by Heini Lehtinen

A week before the opening of retrospective exhibition Everything Architecture, office space of architecture firm OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen in Brussels is buzzing with exhibition preparations. Architectural models occupy tabletops and corners, ready to leave the door to Fine Arts Centre Bozar. Both Kersten Geers and David Van Severen are occupied with making final decisions of what to include in the exhibition, and finishing the visitor’s guide.

Altogether nearly 70 models are on their way to Bozar, where most of the artwork already awaits to be hanged on the walls and to be placed in-between tables carrying the models. Even though there is a plan and a model for the exhibition too, the final nudges of the setting will be finalized on the set.

Office’s architecture installations at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2008 and 2010 and at the Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture in 2014 showed one-to-one-sized architecture to create an experience of the architecture. For Everything Architecture, Geers and Van Severen have taken a different approach. By showing models instead of one-to-one architecture, Everything Architecture steps closer to the previous Office exhibition Seven Rooms, which took place in Antwerp in Belgium in 2009.

“Perhaps it’s good just to simply show your perspectives and means of production through models and drawings instead of trying to engage in the one-to-one experience,” Kersten Geers gives shape to a thought. “Of course, still the ambiguity of the space you feel is there, as is the experience of the space.”

Standing on One’s Own

For the exhibition, Kersten Geers and David Van Severen haven’t only chosen to show their own works, but they juxtapose architecture with architecture photography and art to show the thought process between the works. Each piece is also presented as an independent work in a collage of works.

“The artworks are from everywhere – some of them are from galleries or artist friends we know or people whose work we really admire,” David Van Severen tells. “We have also included lots of architectural photography mainly from Bas Princen and Stefano Graziani, but also from Lewis Baltz. We like to make the boundaries between the disciplines less strict, and to understand that architecture as the other is a kind of cultural production and a part of a certain way of seeing things.”

“In that perspective, we appreciate and really admire that a picture by Bas Princen is also a work on itself,” he continues on a long-term collaborator, photographer Bas Princen. “It’s never a documentary of architecture. He finds a space and takes a picture of it in his way with certain framing, and that’s how he looks at the world. You could say the same about all the other works that are there. This kind of looking at the world in a certain way is also what architecture has in common. That certain way of looking is fundamental to us.”

“In addition to some bigger markers such as John Baldessari, we have also chosen works from artists related to our generation,” Geers continues. “We had to make the choices purely on what is a good illustration for a train of thoughts instead of making choices on a personal level. But, it should not be that art is pure illustration either, but something of a dialogue. Also, if you have too many voices speaking, it becomes cacophonous. It’s always seeking balance.”

Negotiations of Space

The exhibition is located in the so-called antechambers of Bozar, a round atrium space under a glass dome, surrounded by smaller rooms. The OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen architectural models are laid out on nearly 70 tables with a variety of heights. The simple layout of the exhibition focuses on showing the objects and their relation to the surrounding artworks on the walls or located between the tables. As Geers explains, the layout forms parallel circles that fade out to certain extent, a feature that cannot necessarily be immediately noticed in the physical space.

“The extremely simple show of objects in relationship to the artworks could start to show the power of architecture in the Horta spaces itself,” Geers refers to the Bozar architect Victor Horta.

Negotiations of spaces can also be seen in the recent works of the Office in a book that will be published later in March 2016. The book, designed by graphic designer Joris Kritis, will be the second volume of a three-volume series of books on the Office’s works. The book will include works in the exhibition, but not solely.

“As the second volume, the book shows a moment in which the office has taken some steps,” Kersten Geers says. “The selection of works in this volume doesn’t show the very earliest work and not even the most recent work, but you can see development from the very simple, almost ideological project in the beginning. We still have the same formal interests, but you see that there is more negotiations with certain complexity of program.” •

OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen retrospective exhibition Everything Architecture at Centre for Fine Arts Bozar in Brussels, Belgium, on 4 March–29 May 2016.

Main image OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen: Oasis. Photo/copyright Bas Princen.
Image 01
OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen. Photo/copyright Tine Cooreman.
Images 02–08
OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen: Everything Architecture. Photos/copyright Centre for Fine Arts Bozar.


OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen. FROM LEFT. David Van Severen, Kersten Geers. Photo/copyright Tine Cooreman.
OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen. FROM LEFT. David Van Severen, Kersten Geers. Photo/copyright Tine Cooreman.

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