An iconic 1960s office block in Brussels has become a hotel, featuring an interior designed by architect Lionel Jadot using only custom-made furniture and objects.
Set to open today, Mix Brussels takes over the listed former headquarters of La Royale Belge, the insurance company now known as AXA.
Brussels-based Jadot assembled a team of 52 designers and makers (including himself) to kit out the interior with furniture, installations and sculptures that were all designed specifically.
Almost everything, from the chairs to the doorknobs, is the work of an independent artist or designer.
“We wanted to create something different so that when you enter, nothing is normal,” Jadot told Dezeen.
“Nothing is from a catalogue, nothing is seen on Instagram,” he said. “Everything is custom-made in Belgium specifically for this project, by a big family of designers working together.”
The four-star hotel includes 180 rooms and suites, three restaurants, a food market, a co-working space, an auditorium and a health club.
To win such a large commission, Jadot enlisted all of the designers from Zaventem Ateliers, a creative hub he founded in 2018 in a former paper factory on the outskirts of the city.
Zaventem Ateliers brings together 25 creatives in a collaborative environment that supports the creation of limited-edition and collectable art and design.
When a design competition for the project was announced, Jadot convinced them that the hotel could become a celebration of the city’s craft culture.
“This building is really iconic for Brussels and I have been in love with it since the age of 10,” he said.
“Every Friday, my mum would drive us past it on the way to my grandmother’s house. I thought there was something about it that was really special,” he recalled.
“I told the team that we needed to be the ones to do this project,” Jadot added.
As well as the existing members of Zaventem Ateliers, he also enlisted 27 other creatives to collaborate with them on the fit-out.
The overriding concept, Jadot explained, was to create interiors that complemented the sculptural qualities of the building’s distinctive concrete-framed interior.
“The idea was always to have a horizontality in the creation,” he said. “It was not for me to tell them how to work; the point was for them to feel free to pitch something.”
Jadot’s own contributions include a fireplace installation and various chairs, while other notable additions include a papier-mâché artwork by Papier Boulette, tables by designer Pierre Coddens and foam seats by artist duo Touche-Touche.
The opening of MIX Brussels aims to help cement the city’s reputation as a hotspot for collectable art and design.
As well as hosting annual fair Collectible, the city recently saw design gallery Maniera and contemporary art gallery Xavier Hufkens both expand their presences.
Jadot hopes the project will defy expectations of hospitality design, showing that it is possible for this industry to support local creative talent on a large scale.
“A lot of hotels opening today just order poor quality furniture from other countries, then after a few years, everything is destroyed,” he said. “It’s not a good way to do it.”
Key to the alternative approach, Jadot said, was that the investors trusted him to project-manage the process.
He is proud that, unlike most new hotels, the completed interior is difficult to put a date on. He sees this as a sign that it will last a long time.
“You don’t know really if this project was born today or yesterday,” he said.
“We have created this combination, even though we totally avoided vintage. We only have collectable contemporary design, but it’s a really special mix.”