Maarten Van Severen: A Decade After the Death of the Flemish Master

March 2016

A dear friend of Luminaire, Belgian designer Maarten van Severen died of cancer at the age of 48 in 2005, leaving behind a small but perfectly formed oeuvre that is arguably more accomplished than many designers hope to achieve over a lifetime. Van Severen devoted himself to the rigorous exploration of basic furniture typologies and in the process developed a formal language of uncompromising simplicity and incredible proportions. His work reflects his quest for perfection in form, detail and fabrication.

Born in 1956 as the son of abstract painter Dan Van Severen, Maarten Van Severen chose to study architecture at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent. He completed three years before going to work in various agencies on interior design and furniture projects, then in 1986 started to design furniture. Fascinated by the relation between his furniture pieces and their architectural environment, Van Severen worked with Rem Koolhaas on a number of prestigious projects including Maison à Bordeaux and the Casa da Musica. In 2005, he designed a garden pavilion for the Boxy brothers which earned him a nomination for the catalogue and the traveling exhibition of the Mies van der Rohe Award 2007. Koolhaas has said that working with Van Severen marked “a sort of important moment in my own professional life.”

Many of Van Severen’s designs have becomes icons of the 20th century contemporary design. His first piece, a long and slender steel table, has been recreated as an aluminum model, which has been further refined over the years. The emergence of his .03 chair took more than a decade, from 1986, when Van Severen designed his first chair, to Vitra’s mass-produced .03 chair in 1999. The iconic LC95A’ which he designed and produced in aluminum in 1993 has been reproduced in plastic and glass.

A decade after his death, Luminaire still extols Van Severen’s practice of making design an experience unique to each user. We were thrilled to invite him to speak at a lecture during NeoCon in 2001 and host him at our showroom in Chicago. The iconic pieces created by the belgian master can be found at Luminaire showrooms in Miami and Chicago