Koen Van Guijze
Founder of the bespoke architectural lighting studio, Accessori, the Belgian designer launches his first lighting collection.
Filips Van Marnix building, adjoining Hotel Botanic Sanctuary, Antwerp
18th-20th & 24th-27th March 2022
“I WANT TO show people that we can work with any source of lighting and any kind of material,” Belgian designer Koen Van Guijze says about his first lighting collection. It is unveiled on the 18th March, in a historical townhouse located next to the Botanical Garden in Antwerp.
The building was once the home of Filips Van Marnix – a sixteenth-century burgomaster, or chief magistrate. Until recently, it was Hotel Elzenveld before being acquired by a property developer to become part of the new five-star Hotel Botanic Sanctuary, which opened two weeks ago. The exhibition is being held in the part of the hotel yet to be renovated.
Van Guijze, who has designed the lighting for Hotel Botanic Sanctuary, seized the opportunity to exhibit in the empty space prior to its renovation. Walls with peeling paint and mouldings provide the raw decor for his diverse lighting pieces made from onyx, marble, porcelain and stainless steel.
“I’d rather show the variety of my work in this imperfect place than in a white room in a gallery,” says Van Guijze, who cites wabi sabi, the Japanese appreciation of ephemeral beauty and the flow of life, as inspiration for his aesthetic “mixing brutalism and minimalism”.
Van Guijze has been working in the lighting industry for over two decades. In 1996, he founded an architectural lighting studio, Accessori, that realises bespoke lighting projects for residential and commercial clients. He has also created two lines, ‘Sofisticato’ and ‘Essentials’, for the Belgian lighting brand Serax.
Characterised by eclecticism, his independently produced collection assembles the varied pieces that he has made over the last four years. Combining humour and bright pops of colour, fragility and tactility, it bears the influence of Memphis designers Ettore Sottsass and Alessandro Mendini, as well as Gaetano Pesce and Ingo Maurer.
“A lot of what I see on the lighting market is white, black and grey and I want to show that you can use other colours and materials,” says Van Guijze.
Setting the stage for the exhibition is ‘Circuit’ (2021), a dramatic pendant light bathing the neoclassical male sculpture at the base of the staircase in red light. An interplay of materials, it comprises five staggered, curved-edge rectangles, the top two made from neons, the bottom three from LED.
On the red-carpeted flight of stairs is a slither of polished, untreated brass, whose patina will change over time. With a hole for a single lightbulb, ‘Spy’ (2019) brings to mind a slice of birthday cake with a candle on the top.
Other works are installed throughout the space. Van Guijze drew inspiration from the form of a necklace to make ‘Le Collier’ (2019) from pieces of onyx that have been joined together in a chain, the beauty of the veins glowing in the light. His idea for ‘Marble Books’ (2019) he gleaned from the packaging of a catalogue from Van Den Weghe, a Belgian processor of marble and natural stone. Marble acts as the ‘cover’ of the ‘book’ through which the light emanates.
On a smaller scale are ‘Paravents’ (2019), curved porcelain screens, being used to shield candles, that are presented on a rough wooden crate. Poetic and delicate, they recall pieces of rustled paper yet the shapes, which were loosely inspired by Richard Serra’s steel sculptures, came about serendipitously. “I put these geometric forms in the oven and they came out deformed as the heat made them melt,” Van Guijze says.
Indeed, the notion of seeking joy and acceptance in the imperfection of objects and changes of materials underscores the collection and the concept of the show.