I-The New Belgium. From reconstruction to
the Golden Sixties: 1945-1963
Lise Coirier, original texts/English translation –
extracts from “Design en Belgique/in Belgium/in België”, Racine,
«In 1945 the eyes of all the Belgians looking out from
the grave were turned towards the glorious promises of a halcyon future. The
most urgent objective was to restore the bankrupt economy, and therefore to
produce and sell…» Jacques Richez, Textes et Prétextes,
1. From modern effort to social housing
In Belgium the post-war years were marked by a gradual recovery of the economy.
Here as in other countries the reconstruction process was supported by American
funds and benefited from technological progress and industrial streamlining
spurred by the global conflict. Faced with the urgent need to refocus activities,
armament companies (such as the Herstal-based Fabrique nationale) were
the first to develop new products: as early as 1947 FN started to market some
outstandingly designed dairy products. In the furniture sector the Belgian output
was chiefly the product of architects and interior decoration designers. And
soon enough the Scandinavian trends — which were already discernible in
the 1930s — blended with the US and later Italy’s influences. Industrial
design was in its infancy at the time but architects such as Henry van de Velde,
Gaston Eysselinck, Antoine Pompe and Louis Herman De Koninck were joining the
“modern effort” . The latter’s standardized Cubex kitchens
(1930) for example, were mass produced to equip the brand new apartment buildings.
International exhibitions such as the one organised by the Museum of Modern
Art in New York, created a considerable stir among both designers and the general
public through monthly magazines such as La Maison and Bouwen en Wonen.
Belgium was only starting to follow the movement rather tentatively as it embraced
a fascinating destiny featuring socially-oriented, standardized furniture as
well as more experimental attempts. During the fifties modern furniture took
a new turn characterized by international style and everyday streamlining adapted
to working-class housing.