Given architect Vincent Van Duysen’s refined palette and minimalist output, one may be surprised to learn that he trained at Ettore Sottsass’s office during the heart of the Memphis movement. Though his work is devoid of bright color and intersecting patterns, the Belgian designer cites Memphis’s clear, striking forms as an inspiration. Indeed, Van Duysen’s residential commissions and products demonstrate his attention to shape, materiality, light, and shadow. He brings these considerations to his new role as the creative director of Molteni&C and Dada.
How has your approach to residential work evolved over the years?
Since the beginning of my career, I have been delving deeper into my philosophy of “the art of living,” honing the skill of creating spaces to inhabit that have a sense of comfort, sustainability, and permeance.
How did your work at Ettore Sottsass’s studio inform your practice?
At the end of the 1980’s, due to the surging popularity of the Memphis movement, there was a strong focus on basic archetypal forms with a playful application of colors and a striking aesthetic. When I moved on from the Sottsass office, I was still drawn to these elementary shapes and continued to explore them—but in a calm and timeless manner, distilling the forms to their essence.
What do you hope to achieve in your role as creative director of Molteni&C and Dada?
It has been a pleasure working with a brand that holds such a strong mentality and rich DNA, especially with their roster of previous collaborations with prolific designers such as Gio Ponti, Luca Meda, and Jean Nouvel. In future work, I look forward to continuing to develop a strong synergy between the Italian cultural identity and my aesthetic.
How did you approach the design of the brand's new showroom in Milan?
I aimed to draw the outside into the design of the space, with a series of secret gardens. The concept of the interior was based on the deconstruction and rearrangement of geometrical elements to create a new contemporary, and warm living environment, The spaces were inspired by the forms and features of an Italian palazzo; utilising warm, textured materiality and pure architectural forms. The inclusion of wooden beams which mirror the materiality of the floor, blur the division between living and dining rooms to provide the interior program with an interconnected and seamless spatial flow. I wanted the showroom's atmosphere to evoke the feeling of Italian craftsmanship and timeless, sustainable luxury, so I opted for a palette of glass, oxidized wood, and patinated metals.
What materials interest you at the moment?
I have been continuing my research into natural and tactile materials. Experimentations with stone and wood are continuously implemented throughout my work.
What’s a favorite place to travel?
I am always traveling for business, so after some time I started to become somewhat anti-nomadic. As a result of this, my favorite location in the world is my home. It is a place where I find peace and I can reflect and take some quality time for myself, accompanied by my dachshunds, Gaston and Loulou.
What are a few recent projects/products?
The Jules Hardware Collection for Maison Vervloet, new lighting fixtures for Flos's Infra-Structure collection, and additional pieces for Paola Lenti's Portofino collection. For Molteni&C, a new stand concept, new bed Anton, new Master Dressing system, and a new flagship store.
Hear Van Duysen describe Infra-Structure for Flos at Salone del Mobile 2017:
Favorite paint color?
A plaster technique by Odilon Creations in the color Bone.
Most admired historic interior?
Maison-atelier de Luis Barragán.
I am currently in the process of building my second home in Portugal, which for me is my ultimate dream commission. Otherwise, it would be a sacred or religious space, or perhaps a museum or art gallery.