Since MANIERA invites architects and artists to translate their artistic language into furniture and objects, it perhaps comes as a logical step for it to dedicate an exhibition solely to the function and form of “the corner”, a generic spatial type that has always been a prominent motif in art, design, and architecture. The design of the corner as a junction, landmark, or pivot between two spatial planes is a visual challenge in almost any object or building, and often an indication of the sort of significance given to the surrounding space. To show a variety of expressions of the spatial occupation of corners, the exhibition – called Corners – brings together a new series of works by the Swiss architects Trix and Robert Haussmann (Boxes, 2016), a newly developed chair by OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen (Corner Chair, 2016), and a photograph by Bas Princen (Room of Peace (The City-State Under Tyranny), Detail II, 2014). The exhibition is further supplemented by previously commissioned works, including Sophie Nys’s corner cabinet in yellow pine (Hoekkastje (Wolo), 2016), which accentuates the junction of walls, and OFFICE kgdvs’s Prototype – Polyester Table (2014), the square version in a series of three tables, defined by corners made out of industrial L-profiles.
Boxes by Trix and Robert Haussmann, curated by Niels Olsen and Fredi Fischli of Studiolo, comprises a set of variations on plywood boxes with seemingly missing corners. In this new series of works, these architect-designers pursue their lasting interest in the identification of spatial specimens pertaining to a ‘Manierismo Critico’. Since the early seventies, the Haussmanns have developed an alternative mode of expression, informed by the artistic rhetoric of a historical mannerism that contradicts the aesthetic conventions of the Modernist doctrine. Adopting a critical Mannerism that allows for complexity, irrationality, ambiguity, and artificiality, they have developed what they call Lehrstücke (“didactic pieces”), a series of models to test their concepts rather than solidifying them. At MANIERA, the ensemble of six boxes can be regarded as the materialisation of the Haussmann’s theoretical principles of corner design. Instead of offering a typology of corners – external, internal, negative, positive, angular, curved – the boxes offer various possibilities for illusionism by playing with mirrors and cut-outs. The different applications of the mirror, an important material throughout the work, here generate a material alienation; a distortion of conventional views and standardised ways of thinking about spatial presence. In Robert Haussmann’s own words: “It is a question of the fictitious or virtual space that a mirror creates. We were always interested in the fact that a space could be “corrected”, expanded, enlarged or reduced by using mirrors.”(1)
Similarly to Trix and Robert Haussmann, who believe that “there is little to invent, but much to be reinterpreted and rewritten”(2), OFFICE kgdvs adheres to the idea that design should not desperately attempt to reinvent itself – the tradition of understanding the principles and updating them is enough. Yet, counter to a mannerist conception of wonder, it is by an economy of means that architecture arrives at simplicity of space in which life can freely unfold. This notion is clearly demonstrated, for example, in a publication produced on the occasion of the Corners exhibition, which includes the floor plans of Villa Der Bau in Linkebeek, organised in accordance with a basic geometry of squares and corners, and alternated with images of corner pieces produced by seminal artists and designers who have influenced OFFICE kgdvs’s architectural practice. The newly developed Corner Chair was inspired by the villa, and complements the Solo Chair commissioned by MANIERA in 2014. There are three versions of the chair. All three have the same seating made from coated steel and leather, reprising the materials used in Solo Chair, but each version has a different back and armrest: one version is made from epoxy, a second from burl, and a third from marble. When juxtaposed with each other – OFFICE kgdvs’s clearly articulated use of corners and Trix and Robert Haussmann’s ambiguous corner pieces, which reject rigidity of form – we can recognise distinct vocabularies and sets of values, yet they do not necessarily contradict each other.
Shaad G., “And, that a picture is also an idea and a text. Interview with Trix and Robert Haussmann”, in: Fischli, F., and Olsen, N., Trix and Robert Haussmann, Edition Patrick Frey, 2013, p.196
Fischli, F., and Olsen, N., Trix and Robert Haussmann, Edition Patrick Frey, 2013, p.28
For MANIERA, the Haussmann’s produced a series of simple boxes that play with the notion of critical mannerism. The six simple boxes – referring to banal wine or storage boxes – show the various possibilities of illusionism by seemingly missing corners. A typical haussmannesque craft describes the character of these sculptural objects – high-end craft meets everyday plywood.