On a famed shopping street, luxury fashion makes way for a thought-provoking installation by Arne Quinze
David Sokol -- Interior Design, 11/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
The Toison d'Or is truly the most golden of Brussels boulevards—with one gaping exception. Opposite outposts of Hermès, Ralph Lauren, and Gucci sits a vacant square block. Real-estate developer Prowinko purchased the site in 2003 to make way for a mixed-use mega-complex. But a small contingent of neighbors objected enough to put a halt to the project, leaving a void of dirt and rubble exactly where the Toison d'Or pedestrian zone begins. Concerned that this eyesore would send people fleeing to the artsier Rue Antoine Dansaert, the luxury merchants have temporarily filled in the blank. For the next 15 months, shoppers can gather beneath a massive installation by Arne Quinze. Best known as the creative director of the Quinze & Milan furniture company, he spent his teenage years filling Brussels's empty walls with graffiti. Of this more legitimate commission, he says, "It was very exciting that friends and family, just around the corner, could see my work come out of the ground."
Comprising 38 miles of pine two-by-threes and over 400,000 nails, Cityscape is the latest installation that Quinze and a collaborating firm, Troublemakers Factory, have designed and produced for events such as Art Basel Miami Beach and Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. Troublemakers cofounder Antoine Debouverie says that the "clouds" of wood are as suited to art-world sophisticates as to desert revelers: "You feel the immensity and power, and that creates the most unbelievable communal space. You can be either 80 years old or 15—it still really speaks to you."
In addition to producing a similar social glue, Cityscape adhered to Quinze's standardized construction technique. Working from his balsa-wood model, a 10-person crew nailed pine planks of different lengths together until the desired form appeared, a process that took three weeks. In a departure from past efforts, however, Cityscape is raised on pillars to prevent enthusiasts from climbing it. The pillars are arranged in clusters of three or four, up-lit occasionally by a combination of parabolic aluminized reflector cans and color-programmable LEDs. A further difference concerns disassembly. When Prowinko readies for groundbreaking, Quinze will remove his installation for possible reuse, as a whole or in pieces. The Burning Man one went the way of a pyre.