For the fourth time, Designregio Kortrijk invited recent design graduates from the various creative disciplines for the Designers in Residence Kortrijk. During a working residence of 3 months, the three selected designers had the unique opportunity to work together on exploring social transformation through confrontation between citizens, society, entrepreneurs and education in regions such as Kortrijk.

This is the [ THE ] LIQUID STATE INTERVIEW:

Tell us a little about you! How did you end up in Designers in Residence Kortrijk?

Déborah Janssens – I’m from Paris, France and I am a young artist-designer. After graduating in Object Design, I moved to ethnology studies and decided to bound all my interests in a master degree in Social Design. I like to imagine and create surrealistic installations and performative situations that enhance the extraordinary within our everyday life. Designers in Residence in Kortrijk is a good opportunity to challenge my interests in a new context during a limited period of time.

Maria Pita Guerreiro – I am a product and graphic designer based in Lisbon, Portugal. My work explores multiple design aspects. I am interested in working with different materials, textures, and perspectives. During my time in Lisbon, I have worked in several studios and brands as a designer whilst running my co-founded Studio OJEAM. I have been active in the art/design community by participating in several exhibitions, design fairs and design residencies all over Europe and that’s also how I end up at Designers in Residence. My abroad experiences made me understand the importance of expanding my horizons and to realize how enriching it is to exchange and share ideas in a different environment.

Sahil Thappa – I am is a Mechanical Engineer and an Industrial Designer and I came from Ahmedabad in India. I am interested in looking at ways to make design more democratic, open, sustainable and collaborative. I have been working with digital fabrication as well as traditional tools and explored different materials, processes and platforms. I also have been practicing design thinking and system thinking for the past 2 years, doing several workshops and also helped set up design thinking driven Maker-spaces in a few schools in India. I ended up at Designers in Residence after my professor sent me the link and the call for proposal was something relevant to my previous work and was offering interesting and exciting experiences.

Tell us about your group name [THE] LIQUID STATE? How was it at the beginning between you?

We, the 3 Designers in Residence by Designregio Kortrijk worked on theme “Social Liquid Boundaries” with 3 different backgrounds bound together during 3 months in the city of Kortrijk that is divided in 3 parts by a river. We started by brainstorming the meaning of theme of the residency: Social Liquid Boundaries. Water is a state of matter extremely present in Kortrijk with the river and the rain. A boundary is linked to limits or rules that contain people and things in a certain shape. We decided to create a new state in which people are gathering to experience and shake liquid boundaries.
We related to each other in the first week of the Residence when we discovered our common passion for cinema. It help us to see our project as a story with several chapters and actors.

How did you follow the theme Social Liquid Boundaries in the development of your work?

After a period of observation and understanding of the city, we realized how important the role of the river Leie is, known as the Golden river, in the history, construction and use of the city. The Buda Island is the middle part of Kortrijk and it’s surrounded by 2 branches of the river: one is flowing calmly between the Broel Towers and the other one is now used by commercial boats with brand new high technological bridges connecting it. By also observing and meeting locals we notice that the river has an important role for the people, no matter what type of connections and feelings they experience with it. Kortrijk shares a link with the river, so we decided to work around it implementing our “liquid” topic of the theme.

After brainstorming on different types of boundaries, we decided to focus on the relations between individuals, resources and territory in Kortrijk. Therefore, we proposed 3 scenarios with 3 installations to create new experiences linked to the Golden river to consequently change its perception and to cross social boundaries in a playful way. We wanted to engage locals, communities, local materials and skills in order to create a participatory project. Our aim was to shake and create new Social Liquid Boundaries, we created the Social Golden River Installations.

What are the 3 installations and how do they work?

As an introduction, we presented the Scenario 1 that represents Individuals Boundaries , which are related to the way we humans conduct ourselves, the way we interact with others. Since bridges were such a prominent object in kortrijk and it represents a visual boundary, we decided to create a new interpretation:

– TALKING BRIDGE – We proposed a new appropriation of the space to invite people for new experiences of the surrounding by connecting them in a playful way. A meeting place for dialogue and discovery of the other. We designed 2 acoustic mirrors that will invite people to talk to each other creating a communicative bridge. The acoustic mirrors work as reflectors of sound and due to the acoustic physical laws the sound travels to the other mirror.

After we designed Scenario 2 that is focussed on Resources Boundaries. Kortrijk is a beautiful, but rainy city. We wanted to propose a playful place where this natural resource would friendly welcome people for new appreciations of its essence, we designed – RAINY PARASOL – an outside laboratory for a different use and experience of a rainy day, an attempt to change people’s negative perception of an outdoor activity on bad weather conditions. Therefore, it only functions when it’s raining. Is an open funnel-shaped shelter that collects the rain and directs it to different containers that accordingly to the weight of the water, it activates a light system. The installation is meant to be an inviting shelter where people can escape from the rain, relax and enjoy the surroundings.

And last but not least, the Scenario 3 talks about Territory Boundaries, which are related to the way geography AND nature can affect the way we behave. Buda is the island in the middle of Kortrijk also called the “Island of Creation”. The river is not used as a space too, in these terms, we wanted to recreate the concept of an island as a public space, a livable and lively extension of the river. A new invitation for a closer experience into nature, a new perception of the public space. Therefore, we built – ANOTHER ISLAND – which is a floating platform, that can eventually grow into a network of islands. The scenarios inside can be displayed differently, inviting people to a dynamic and playful space that can host different activities, such as: a fishing spot, a picnic or even a romantic dinner. The top of the structure is a reflective mirror as an amplification of the landscape itself on the ambition of designing something that could be part of the river.

Who got involved in the project?

As previously mentioned, we observed and met some locals, we visited a lot of companies and we tried to engage as many people and skills as we could. Despite this, we ended up working mainly with 3 different communities: with the volunteer technicians of BUDA::lab, the local makerspace situated at Budafabriek to help us with electronics. With Lieve Zusjes Stoere Broers, a group of bikers that organized an event that helped us to make an amazing final exhibition. And with Bolwerk, an inspiring local collective that works with public installations and also the place where we fabricated the three installations. At the end of our Residency we decided to exhibit our installations at Bolwerk. As the residency is meant to be an on-going work in progress, we are going to launch a book and a movie to present in April at the final opening of our installations, this time placed on and next to river, as we planned since the beginning.

What do you feel you’ve learnt during your residency? Did you like Kortrijk? Why do you think Kortrijk is known as a design city? Something to miss/regret?

We believe that we managed to develop and fabricate working prototypes of an ambitious project of designing 3 public installations in such a short timing. And we are very proud of our accomplishment. We enjoyed the city a lot and all the people we’ve met during our time here, everyone made us feel welcome and played an important role in our projects. We are also happy to witness the achievement of the fact that Kortrijk became a UNESCO Design City this year. Specially the Designregio Kortrijk team has been doing a great job to make it an innovative and exciting city, and they helped and supported us during our Residency. What are we going to miss? Everything! But we will be back in April and who knows when again!!

Interview by Álvaro BLANCO OLIVER, International Student in Journalism at Howest University College | Belgium

You can find more information about the Designers in Residence 2017 on their website: theliquidstate.wordpress.com