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published on 22.06.2022

The Belgian factory in Milan

As ambitious and successful as its Belgian version, Baranzate Ateliers, a meeting supported by Belgium is Design, has naturally become one of the must-attend events of Milan Design Week.

Held in a disused building in the town of Baranzate, near Milan, over six days from 6 to 12 June, the Italian version of Zaventem Ateliers allowed 16 Belgian designers to present their work, a real best of the different worlds and professions (designers, artists, craftspeople, furniture designers, lighting designers, exceptional knives, etc.) assembled since 2019 in a unique creative hub.

With 3,000 square metres, 16 artists and collectives, two galleries and four guest artists and 5,000 visitors in seven days, it is difficult to talk about Baranzate Ateliers without using ‘superlatives’. The other option is to listen to the designers use the word ‘family’ about this project initiated by Lionel Jadot, first in Zaventem, then, on a temporary basis, in a disused industrial building in Baranzate, the former Necchi factory. Like the collaborative spirit of the creative hub in place at the gates of Brussels for three years, the Milan project allowed designers to present their own work, as well as develop synergies, some of them already initiated in Belgium, which this exceptional meeting relayed on social networks and through the Belgian, Italian and international media made even more important. Buyers immediately embraced the energy generated by the collective. Some, like Arno Declercq, designer, art dealer and furniture designer, sold all the items they presented in Milan.

It took several days and incredible energy for the entire collective to implement this scenography, which resembled a vast theatre set. As the day progressed and the light changed, this venue with its natural, industrial aesthetic, was transformed to reveal other facets of the work of these designers whose creations in wood, metal, textiles and recycled materials found a more-than-perfect setting here. This pooling of worlds as contrasting as they are complementary was also an opportunity to discover the result of the many alliances between designers initiated over the months. One example is the alliance between Vladimir Slavov, artist, designer and lighting manufacturer (DIM atelier) and Mircea Anghel (Cabana Studio), designers of a ceiling light and a table respectively; these items, among others, can be found at the Mirazur restaurant in Menton. There is also the Maison Armand Jonckers coffee table made with the collaboration of Pieter Van Bruyssel and Thomas Eggermont, founders of Grond Studio. Clem Vanhee (Atelier185), designer of made-to-measure knives, shares a private and artistic complicity with his wife Lieselot, a jeweller (LunaLotta – Lieselot’s jewels are made from the metal scraps from the knives) which, in Brussels as in Milan, gives real meaning to the project as a whole.

Organised as a walk through the huge Baranzate hall, the exhibition offered visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in each universe, and to see them coexist in a dialogue or rather in a multitude of inspiring exchanges. For example, Abacus, the table composed of several modular trays by designer Pierre-Emmanuel Vandeputte, placed under the kinetic Light Fan installation by Studio Élémentaires, or the metallic textiles by Adeline Halot next to the recycled metal chairs by FutureWave, the result of a collaboration with the brewery Duvel. Driven by the same obsession with colour, Lionel Jadot, Justine de Moriamé and Erika Schillebeeckx (KRJST studio) and the Pierre Coddens studio (which presented a forest of stools in lacquered aluminium) succeeded in making their highly distinctive worlds cohabit without jostling each other. The strength of Zaventem Ateliers lies in this complementarity and in their ability to reconcile sexy design with a strong commitment to society and the environment. The 16 names gathered in Baranzate were joined by two galleries, as well as other Belgian designers, such as the ceramist Bella Silva, and Ben Storms, whose work, approach and philosophy are in line with those of the ‘hard core’ of the Belgian workshop.

In a few months, Lionel Jadot, a real multi-talented design specialist and master builder of the future hotel on the site of the former headquarters of the Royale in Brussels, will bring together the 32 talents of this corporation that is an inspiration for everyone – journalists, buyers, gallery owners and collectors – discovering it for the first time. And then we can start to fantasise. In this inevitably ‘extraordinary’ place, what will be the form of the woven leather creations of Charles Schambourg, the light installations of the sculptor Lila Farget and the multiple collaborations initiated by RSLT, a hybrid studio that sums up the essence of Zaventem Ateliers in a few pieces as unclassifiable as they are sublime? But can we really talk about ‘summing up’? Not really. And that’s why every project by this young guild is so exciting.