Belgian experimental architecture duo Gijs Van Vaerenbergh have made a name for themselves by taking unfamiliar approaches to elementary forms of design – a transparent church in the Flemish countryside, an inverted dome in a Leuven cathedral. Their work reflects the changing conversation between tradition and innovation in modern architecture, using historical imagery to bring about new perspectives on style and surroundings.
Their latest installation, ‘Labryrinth’, is a sculptural maze currently on show at the Genk C-Mine Gallery in their native Belgium. Pieterjan Gijs and Armount Van Vaerenbergh were commissioned to design the piece as part of the 10th anniversary of the gallery, which, being built on the site of a decommissioned coal mine, is itself a way of reimagining space.
Built from sheets of steel 5m tall and half a centimetre thick, Labyrinth is a break from traditional labyrinthine form, and is in fact a complete deconstruction of the concept. The architects have detailed their network of transecting walls not as a puzzle to be completed, but as a place of great openness and an opportunity for new forms of spatial awareness. Conceived using a sequence of Boolean transformation, the 1km entanglement of steel is intercut with fragments of empty space that vary in appearance depending on the position of the viewer. The aim of the project, according to Gijs Van Vaerenbergh, was to bring about a reappraisal of the way in which we perceive walled-in spaces.
The sculpture can be explored in an immersive respect from within the structure, or in its entirety from the vantage point of an old mining shaft tower, each encounter offering a distinctive connection to the piece.
(All photography by Filip Dujardin)