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Alain Berteau

Belgium is Design – a joint venture between Design Flanders, Wallonia-Brussels Design Mode, MAD Brussels, Wallonia Invest & Export and Brussels Invest & Export – will once again highlight Belgian creativity during the Salone in Milan.  

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Designer of the Year Award, all previous and current designers of the year present their latest designs in a joint expo. The exhibition will highlight the specific characteristics of Belgian design, emphasising the original approach these 10 designers have in common. The prestigious Academia di Belle Arti di Brera is the perfect location to confront these designers with each other, and with the rich historic background of the building itself. 

One of the designers is Alain Berteau, designer of the year 2006. 

1. How would you describe what you do?
I design. I mostly work on furniture, equipment and some buildings, but I also do a lot of branding and product strategies. And on the side I also teach a little bit.

2. At what time do you start your day and what’s the thing you do first? 
I get up at 6am, to have breakfast with my “early bird” younger daughter.

3. What is the reason you started doing what you do? What makes you so passionate about it?
I’m passionate about what I do because I couldn’t imagine myself doing something else. Rilke was right: don’t do it if you could consider doing anything else.
I just can’t think of any other occupation that would please me as much. It all came very natural, even when I was a child I was always drawing, sketching, crafting …
The famous Henri James formula is also a relevant answer: We work in the dark – we do what we can – we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art. You don’t work well in this field until you understand its complete vacuity – we design chairs, we don’t save lives, it’s not important – and then you try to put some intensity in it, to make it meaningful again.

4. What or who is your source of inspiration?
Design is about observation, looking for improvement and relevance. It’s not about style. That’w what daily life is a big source of inspiration for me. I am very inspired by how people behave, and by thinking about human needs. If there is something missing that might change people’s behaviour, that is what I want to come up with. Uncomfortable situations are a problem that I want to solve through my designs.
Poorly made products are another source of inspiration. I want to find a way to make them better.

5. Which is your all time favorite design?
The Taccia lamp from Castiglioni. Followed by the Eames Aluminium group, Charlotte Perriand shelves, and the Marcel Breuer plywood chaise longue for Isokon.

6. Do you think you’ll keep walking down this path in the future or do you have other creative calls?
I will continue in a quieter but intensive way. I still have so many ideas that are waiting to be developed.

7. Which piece of work would you consider your very own masterpiece?
It is a brand new folding chair collection, which is still in development at the moment. The collection is so simple and yet so extremely innovative at the same time. It’s all about convenience, about making things easier for people.

8. If you had a time machine, in what year would you be living?
I would like to be transported to 1964 because of jazz and rock music. And also because of the arts and design of that time, and the clothes, movies and literature. To quote Bill Evans, I would like to live in the sixties for “total freedom with responsibility”.

9. Cookies and milk, or chips and soda?
Oysters, bread and good wine. Can’t beat that, and life is short.

10. If you could give yourself one single piece of advice before you started this adventure, what would it be?
Always trust your instinct.