When he discovers a work of art, Olivier Dwek is generally interested by its deeper levels of interpretation. In architecture, he is fascinated by the superposition of different layers of meaning, or several historic periods. Three ages are superimposed in this rare townhouse. Three timeframes overlap in a respectful dialogue between their specific features. Built in the 19th century, the residence has retained its majestic, classical elements: mouldings, fireplaces, wide archways and windows with curved contours. Some of them have been replaced with windows identical to the original, in order to maintain the harmony.
The central staircase has been extended up a further floor: its wrought iron balustrade is an identical reproduction of the original one below, so that this intervention forms a seamless continuation under the skylight, allowing the natural light to pour down generously throughout the house. Yet in other parts of the house, the 21st century asserts itself solidly. In the sitting room therefore, we find a succession of surprises, rather like theatre sets. A classical wall has been opened up on either side of the fireplace, forming two entrances to a library designed by the architect.
Numerous practical and technical features have been incorporated within the decor, contemporary inserts in a classical context. The transition between the 19th century and the present day is assured by several icons of modernist architectural design. The social values expressed by the various elements of the whole point to the rift which forms between a certain academism and avant-garde creation: a duality that has nurtured the entire history of art.
1. While reading about this house, I was amazed by the structure you worked with, based on the superposition of different layers of meaning. Can you broaden this idea?
The layers are created from a superposition of three periods.
The architecture of the townhouse, 19th century.
The contemporary art from the 20th century.
The furniture from mid 20th century.
Three times, superposed as three layers communicating together like a palimpsest.
2. After considering these different layers, how did you chose the art pieces and furniture for the house?
The furniture was chosen from a drastic selection, a selection with a lot of character and purity.
All the artwork was curated around the theme of silver.
The aluminum of the Thomas Houseago sculpture.
The soaked canvas in electrolysis bath from Jacob Kassay.
Erasure and other movements from Christopher Wool.
Olivier is a passionate collector of 20th century furniture and contemporary art.
The followed line for this project was grey linked between purity and character.
3. How did you plan the different spaces of this house in terms of interior design? The intervention you did in the living room is amazing, and there is a link that gives all the house a particular pattern.
Concerning the interior architecture and living room (see on the picture with the Jacob Kassay painting) there are ancient elements as the generous ceiling mouldings and the superb woodwork that were painted in white in order to increase their purity.
The other elements, contemporary architecture elements as the white frame surrounding this Jacob Kassay were also paint in white to be faded in the background and put them into a better dialogue with the woodwork.
4. I read about other projects you've worked on, and you always mention the importance of natural light towards artificial one. How did you plan to have these bright and white spaces inside the G House, having in mind that Brussels has a long winter and a strong rainy season; how does the environment affect your work?
This townhouse is exceptional an rare, it offers three facades as most of Brussels townhouses has just two. This characteristic increases naturally the brightness in this house.
The house was treated with clear tones. Light natural wooden floor with a lot of whiteness in order to support the natural brightness and light of this place.
5. Reading about your professional upbringing, it seems your passion for the fine arts led you to architecture; how do these two practices bond in your day-to-day work? Art obviously plays a major role in all your projects.
Art is a permanent source of inspiration.
And even more, the artistic approaches, the philosophic statements, the intellectual researches are an inspiration for us.
We like to work and create for art lovers.
6. Also, I know you respected most of the original structure of this 19th Century house, the staircase for example. Which other parts where considered to be renovated, but respecting its original purpose?
All the woodwork on the walls and mouldings of the living room and reception parts were totally restored and conserved.
The stairs lead initially from the ground floor to the first floor, this part was extended until the second floor to create a huge light shaft in the center of this masterful stairs.