A red thread under the hand
Located on the site of the school of horticulture, a former caretaker's lodge has been adapted to house children and young adults suffering from hearing and/or visual impairment, but also some who have emotional disorders. They are all between 6 and 21 years of age. The social set-up houses them and at the same time offers them an education and psychological monitoring that can promote both their individual development and their capacity to form bonds within a group. Various different activities are organized, such as gardening and drawing, but the children must also take part in doing household chores as far as possible. With the objective of stimulating their sensory potential and encouraging a participative attitude while also structuring all the different living areas, the intervention of an artist was desired.
From the entrance, a ramp runs not only along the stairs but also all through all the living areas, indicating the specific functional character of each by means of the attributes with which it is endowed. Constructed from stainless steel, or wood for the middle section, the design actually evolves over what constitutes its course. Thus in the bathroom, cakes of soap in different forms, colours and scents are associated to it, as are sponges or towels. In the kitchen, goblets are placed in the interstices hollowed out of the ramp, towels hang fixed to it by hooks. Cheerful luminous primary and secondary colours dominate the whole of this creative work. Thus the children can get their bearings by letting themselves be guided by their sense of touch. Games are also on offer: small bells and triangles are tantamount to an invitation to explore auditory sensations. The residents are also free to create their own individual space. For example, hanging from the ramp there are satchels fitted with lots of pockets that can easily be accessed by press-studs or Velcro fastenings, enabling the youngsters to put favourite objects into them, photographs, drawings... Contrasting with the rather severe-looking façade of the building, Dobbels's creative intervention successfully opens up the field of perceptual experiences, so promoting the enrichment of everyday life.
The mediator suggested Griet Dobbels whose creative work questions the psychological and physical experience of art. After training at the Royal College in London, in the mid-1990s she went to Kyoto in Japan, a crucial experience in the elaboration of her artistic language. Being confronted with an age-old tradition of ceramics and graphics allowed her to develop an art that is both stylised and rich in its apprehension of the relationships between textures, forms and colours. She prefers to use cheap, brightly coloured materials that belong to the everyday world. Since then she has made environments or else installations, imbued both with delicacy and a strong playful potential; these are sensory spaces offered to the viewer's apprehension. Her interest in the world of childhood also contributed to the patrons' decision to entrust the project to her. To ensure that her creative work was properly incorporated into the architectural space, Dobbels worked in collaboration with the architect Walter Salender.