It’s often said that the best design comes from the need to solve a problem, to improve an existing way of life. The Designcentre de Winkelhaak, located a stone’s throw from the Antwerp city train station has proved itself to be just that.
The Designcentre is in part a social project, created from the need to improve what was a difficult area in the central station district which was rife with prostitution and drug culture. The neighbourhood was in need of investment and renovation but crucially in a way that didn’t drive out the existing community and encourage gentrification. Described as an incubator for creative entrepreneurship, this award winning centre, now in its 15th year is an ever evolving hub for designers, creatives and enthusiasts, with studios to rent, exhibition space, on hand advise and brand new design shop which extols the virtues of its Belgian Design Essentials.
With over 30 designers and studios under one roof, the centre promotes new and young Belgian design, providing business support, co-working spaces and an environment in which this design community meet regularly to discuss ideas and help each other to grow their businesses.
Adjoined to the centre is BarOscar, a warm and welcoming cafe with meeting spaces below for designers and customers – it apparently also serves the best coffee in Antwerp, although I’d challenge that with their hot chocolate which was ridiculously comforting on a cold October afternoon.
In an effort to feel inclusive of its surrounding residents, the Designcentre has an open door policy – the building itself is essentially made up of wall to wall windows which encourages transparency so that activity inside the building can be seen. I wish I’d had more time to photograph the space for you properly, but my eyes were taken by all the small details, the concrete walls, metal structured windows, open spaces and of course, those double height floor to ceiling curtains.
Inside the open exhibition space in the basement (sometimes used for expos and design events) were pieces on display from the 2016 winners of OVAM Ecodesign Awards. I particularly loved the SPAN bench, designed by Jonathan Engels which is based on the principle of compression and tension between the oak seat and frame and steel cables.
A brilliant and shining example in so many ways – from the support of young Belgian design, the way in which it has helped to improve what was a troubled area of the city, to the architecture itself, the centre is always finding new ways to adapt and sustain.
Visit Designcentre de Winkelhaak / Long Winkelhaakstraat, 2060 Antwerp.
Mon – Fri: 09:00 – 18:00
Sat: 10:00 – 16:00
To see more about the design centre and visit during your stay in Antwerp, check out the website.
The Function+Form Bloggers Design Tour was organised in collaboration with Pentacom PR and Designcentre de Winkelhaak, with thanks.