The Biennale Interieur is the Belgian high mass of interior design, known for its curated, high-quality selection of interior design exhibitors. Every other year thousands of people flock to the town of Kortrijk to check out the latest the industry has to offer. But rather than just give the floor to exhibitors like any other trade fair, Interieur Foundation’s president Lowie Vermeersch expressed his wish for the foundation to be a key driver in stimulating the debate on the evolving meaning of interior design in people’s lives, the future societal, technological and economic changes ahead and their meaning for both producers and consumers.
In this light, Pantopicon was asked to create a series of thought provoking narratives, featuring both grounded and speculative content as a starting point for debate. 12 ‘what if?’ questions were elaborated.
Each question was accompanied by a text describing a cluster of linked emerging societal, technological and economic changes and raising further questions regarding the meaning of these changes for consumers as well as interior design businesses. Speculative yet plausible answers were illustrated textually as well as by means of accompanying sketches by Pantopicon. All twelve micro-essays were published in the event catalogue further illustrated by a selection of artist impressions/interpretations.
During the 10-day trade fair itself, a selection of insights inspired by these thought-provoking ‘what if?’ questions, was rendered tangible on the floor of the trade fair by translating them into five fictional startup companies. Each startup was presented under its own name, featuring its own logo and branding, showcasing its very own products and services anticipating the needs of a different future emerging.
Throughout the duration of the fair, Pantopicon employees took visitors showing interest on a mini-tour of the startups, explaining them their products and services, while engaging in a discussion with them. The fictional nature of the startups was only revealed at the end of the tour. The hundreds of conversations held – with both visitors and fellow exhibitors – led to important insights regarding both consumer as well as the interior design business’ readiness for the proposed business and product/service concepts as well as the broader challenges they were designed to embody. Reactions ranged from expressions of enthusiasm, to questions as well as suggestions for improvements regarding the featured products and services, to straight business proposals.
[Photos by Marc Wallican]