Encounter with Gerhard Richter
The collaboration between the German artist Gerhard Richter (b. 1932) and Robbrecht en Daem architecten goes back to Documenta IX, where Richter showed his works in the Aue Pavilions. A characteristic of those pavilions was the variety of typologies in which the artists exhibited. Walls were sometimes white walls, sometimes glass walls (so that inside and outside could interact), some of which were also opened during the day (so that the work could literally continue in the park). However, the space in which Richter showed his work differed from this. He abandoned the 'white cube' formula and followed Robbrecht en Daem's proposal to opt for a complete wooden wall covering which gave his paintings a more intimate character. This simulated a closet, with a floor-to-ceiling arrangement of his work.
This meeting of ideas between Richter and Robbrecht en Daem proved not only to be a unique way of exhibiting but also the start of a friendship. A friendship that resulted in the Richter Table, a desk that Robbrecht en Daem made in 1992 as a birthday present for the artist. It was designed in the first place with the idea of creating a space in which he could think. “Built out of cherry-wood with a linoleum desktop, the piece displays an elegant simplicity,” writes Aslı Çiçek about the design. “The trapezium shape refers to two lines in a central perspective leading to one vanishing point, suggesting a focal spot in an imaginary landscape. The architects imagined the desk being installed in front of a window and the artist standing next to it, looking over his table outside.” 1
There is also an anecdote from the friendship between the artist and the architects that is inextricably intertwined with the workings of the architectural studio. You must not be afraid of an opposing idea that suddenly occurs to you, Richter once mentioned in a conversation with Paul Robbrecht and Hilde Daem. His own highly varied oeuvre—ranging from figuratives to abstracts—shows exactly how he puts himself over that fear. The advice the artist gave dates back to the early years of the Robbrecht en Daem studio, but became strongly encapsulated in the agency's thinking and is cherished to this day. Using divergent ideas—which are not diametrically opposed to each other, but rather a long way apart—simultaneously and yet in a united way, has become a characteristic of Robbrecht en Daem’s work.
1 Original Publication: Aslı Çiçek, “Spaces for the Mind, Objects for Well-Being,” in Maarten Van Den Driessche, ed., Robbrecht en Daem An Architectural Anthology (Ghent, 2017), pp. 481–484.