The work of Office Kersten Geers David Van Severen (KGDVS) demonstrates the firm’s search to uncover the essence of architecture — testing the limits of what it means to be a boundary, an enclosure, an entrance, an opening. Often, that line of questioning leads to stark, abstract forms. “Of course there is abstraction in our work; it’s hard to deny that, although I sometimes try,” says partner Kersten Geers, laughing at his own contradiction. “But for us, abstraction is more a matter of being precise. I think when you get too many things going, you can become very imprecise.” Geers cites the architectural work of O.M. Ungers and Aldo Rossi, and the urban work of Alison and Peter Smithson and Auguste Perret as precedents. These are old questions — they are arguably the heart of architecture itself — but they have gone unconsidered for some time.
The project that displayed this agenda most clearly was the firm’s installation for the Belgian Pavilion at the 2008 Venice Biennale. Not content simply to design an architectural piece, Geers and Van Severen responded to the prevailing architectural (and architectural exhibition) culture of the past 15 years. Geers explains: “We thought, after 10 years of relentless bombarding with nonsensical diagrams and showcases of half-interested journalistic surveys of countries, it was good to show architecture in the most simple, visible, and radical way.” Their answer consisted of a 23-foot double wall, clad in galvanized steel, which created a new courtyard in front of the existing pavilion building. Visitors had to pass through the wall to access the courtyard and pavilion. After doing so, they found that the ground, inside and out, was covered in an even carpet of strewn confetti, with movable black metal chairs here and there. The architects titled the work After the Party, a reference to the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Belgian Pavilion, but also a direct rejoinder to the pervasive architectural strategy that attempts to reduce complex cultural and historical terrain to a simplistic diagram. Office KGDVS practices in another, more elemental language. After the party, they seemed to say, there is only architecture.