Design and Politics

The Public Promotion of Industrial Design in Postwar Belgium (1950–1986)

Katarina Serulus

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Monograph - paperback

The unique position of design in the political context of postwar Belgium

In the postwar era, design became important as a marker of modernity and progress at world fairs and international exhibitions and in the global markets. The Belgian state took a special interest in this vanguard phenomenon of ‘industrial design’ as a vital political and economic strategic tool in the context of the Cold War and the creation of the European community. This book describes the unique position that design occupied in the political context of postwar Belgium as it analyses the public promotion of design between 1950 and 1986. It traces this process, from the first government-backed manifestations and institutions in the 1950s through the 1960s and 1970s, until design lost its privileged position as a state-backed institution, a process which culminated in the closure of the Brussels Design Centre in 1986, in the midst of the Belgian federalisation process. A key figure in this history is the policymaker Josine des Cressonnières, who played a leading role in the national and international design community and succeeded in connecting very different political worlds through the medium of design.

This publication is GPRC-labeled (Guaranteed Peer-Reviewed Content).
Acknowledgements 

Introduction
 
1. Golden Guns 
2. The Public Promotion of Industrial Design in Postwar Belgium 
3. Historiography 
4. Design: Tackling the Polysemic 
5. Design and Politics: Constant but Uneasy Bedfellows 
6. Design and the Nation-State: Avoiding the Pitfalls 
7. Design Promotion and National Identity 
8. Structure 

PART I: Competing Visions of Design 

Chapter I: Prefigurations (1950–1956)
1. Introduction: The Problem of “Design” 
2. Industrial Design as the Tail End of Interwar Legacies 
 2.1 Social Preoccupations 
 2.2 Resuming Interwar Efforts to Unite the Arts and Industry 
3. “Not out of Love for Art”: The Inclusion of Industrial Design in Official Policies 
 3.1 Jean Rey’s Policies 
 3.2 The Art et Travail Show in Liège 
 3.3 Belgian Design in Milan
4. The First Institutions for Industrial Design 
 4.1 The Takeoff Run in Liège 
 4.2 The Institute for Industrial Design for Belgium and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (1956) 
 4.3 The Signe d’Or Award (1956) 
5. Conclusion: A Conglomerate of Art, Industry and Politics 

Chapter II: Reconfiguring Henry van de Velde (1956–1964) 
1. Introduction: Henry van de Velde at the Industrial Design Show in Liège 
2. The Henry van de Velde “Myth” 
 2.1 The Doyen of Belgian Industrial Design 
 2.2 His Home Country, Belgium 
3. Global Freelancer 
 3.1 Between Reason and Intuition 
 3.2 Janus-Faced Exploitation 
4. Turning One’s Back on Henry van de Velde 
 4.1 “A Purely Industrial Society” 
 4.2 Connecting with International Developments 
5. Conclusion: The “Myth” Dismantled 

PART II: Design Promotion and Cold War Politics

Chapter III: Visions and Fantasies of “European” Design in the Early Cold War Years (1961–1970) 
1. Introduction: The Gallic 16 
2. The Early Stages of Design Institutionalization in Belgium: Belgian or Supranational? 
 2.1 The Supranational Scope 
 2.2 The Siren Call of Europe 
 2.3 The Liaison Committee for Industrial Design in the Common Market 
3. European Design: A Necessary Answer 
 3.1 Envisioning European Design 
 3.2 European Design: A Collage of National Design Identities? 
4. The Brussels Design Centre and the Malleable Category of the National 
5. Conclusion: “European” Design, a Supranational Fantasy 

Chapter IV: Design Exchanges between Brussels and Moscow in the Early 1970s 
1. Introduction: Leaping over the Iron Curtain
2. The Design Center as Transnational Format 
 2.1 Exchanging Exhibitions 
3. Belgian-Soviet Design Exchanges 
 3.1 Glancing behind the Iron Curtain 
 3.2 Belgian Design in a Socialist Realistic Jacket 
4. Conclusion: “des relations bien designées…” 

PART III: Crafting “Belgian” Design 

Chapter V: In Search of a “National Style” (1964–1970) 
1. Introduction: “Belgian” design 
2. The Brussels Design Centre as an Instrument of National Prestige 
3. Belgian Design Myths 
4. Crafting “Belgian” Design 
 4.1 The Interior Design of the Brussels Design Centre 
 4.2 “Belgian” Design: A Product of Careful Selection 
 4.3 The Royal Touch 
5. The Design Centre’s “Belgian” Style 
 5.1 “A Little More Gaiety Would Not Go Amiss” 
 5.2 “Anti-Modern and Anti-Democratic” 
6. Promoting “Good” “Belgian” Design 
7. Conclusion: Hard-to-Find “Belgian” Design 

Chapter VI: C’est Belge, Ça? (1970–1983) 
1. Introduction 
2. The National Doctrine under Pressure 
 2.1 Provinces Want their Piece of the Industrial Design Pie 
 2.2 Divergent Understandings of Design and Crafts 
 2.3 Counterattack: “Operation Decentralization” 
3. “C’est Belge, Ça!” 
 3.1 Political Tensions in the Unitary Belgian State 
 3.2 Reinventing Belgian Souvenirs on the Eve of Belgian Federalization 
4. Design for the State 
 4.1 Changing Design Scene 
 4.2 Design Commission 
5. Conclusion: The Persistence of the Belgian Design Label 

Conclusion 
Notes 
Bibliography 

Format: Monograph - paperback

Size: 230 × 170 × 20 mm

324 pages

ISBN: 9789462701359

Publication: October 10, 2018

Languages: English

Stock item number: 124359

Katarina Serulus is fellow researcher at the Faculty of Architecture at KU Leuven.