Spatial concept for STEMS

Brussels, Belgium

Stems Gallery was founded in Brussels in 2015 by brother and sister Guillaume and Pascaline Smets. The gallery exhibits the work of emerging artists, with a particular focus on introducing contemporary American artists to European audiences. Highlighting work in all mediums and formats, including painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, video, and installation, the gallery‘s program is driven by intuition and curiosity rather than any rigidly defined criteria. Each exhibition is the result of a close collaboration between the gallery and the artist or curator, allowing artists to communicate their individual creative visions and to witness the energy and dynamism of the Belgian art scene.

Saint Jerome in his Study, oil on oak painting
by Hendrik van Steenwijck the younger, 1630

In 2020 Stems Gallery acquired a new gallery space located along the Rue Prince Albert in Brussels. The 500m2 space is located in a former laboratory building from the beginning of the 20th century and will provide new exhibition spaces, a depot for artworks, and the head office for STEMS gallery. Our task was to develop a spatial concept for the new gallery and produce a detailed design for the fixed furniture of the office spaces and the exhibition space. To ensure future flexibility and to provide a visual openness, our proposed interventions are intentionally very simple. The open space is organised by a set of archetypical furniture elements which give order to the space and fulfil the specific functional requirements set by the client.

The traditional Japanese principle of Genkan

Inspired by the Japanese Genkan or the traditional lifted entryway for a house, we proposed a simple timber podium to create a threshold between the public exhibition space and the offices, whilst providing a visual openness and continuity. In the exhibition spaces a series of benches are placed in front of each window to visually reinforce the long perspective along the main exhibition space. Each bench doubles up as a storage unit and can also be used to as a curatorial tool to display artworks.

Our ambitious goals towards sustainability forced us to thoroughly research how the furniture is constructed and which materials were used. The furniture at Stems Gallery is constructed solely from boards of solid ash, without using any polluting treatments or glue. The robust detailing and the economy of material give the pieces an apparent simplicity and make the design durable and sustainable.

Location: Brussels, Belgium
Year: 2020-2021
Client: Stems Gallery
Function: Offices, exhibition space, archive