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Contemporary craftsmanship

With over one million visitors each year, Bokrijk is one of Belgium’s biggest and best-known open-air museums. Here at I Love Belgium we assume that every Belgian has been there at least once whether it was on a school trip or during a family weekend away. And if not, they really should go because Bokrijk breathes Belgian history. The museum displays Belgian heritage through preserved buildings, tools and stories that represent simplicity, unity and knowledge. The historical site takes you back to the humble life of the 1900s and symbolizes the Belgian craftsmanship. 


In 2014 architect and product developer Bart Lens became curator of the Bokrijk open-air museum. He was appointed with the exciting mission of uniting the past, present and future of Bokrijk. His main ambition is to honor craftsmanship by pointing out the relevance of past traditions for modern day design and architecture. That’s why he started the BKRK project that enables, honors and stimulates contemporary craftsmanship. The BKRK Project is based on the craftworks that are unlocked in the open-air museum and includes breadmaking, leathercraft, woodwork and pottery.

Breadmaking 
To celebrate the art of artisanal breadmaking, Bokrijk teams up with present-day craftsman Kobe Deramaults. Kobe is a renowned Belgian chef and founder of De Superette, a restaurant slash bakery in Ghent that is devoted to ancient traditions. De Superette is praised for its handmade sourdough bread and only works with organic grains that have been grinded in traditional windmills. The Bokrijk domain will host the second De Superette bakery. From the end of June, visitors will be able to buy the handmade bread as well as immerse themselves into the principles of breadmaking. 

Leathercraft 
BKRK launched a leathercraft design competition for both young and upcoming as established designers. The competition’s assignment was to develop an object used in everyday life in such a way that it shows every aspect of leather craftsmanship. 23-year-old Margot Declerck won the competition with her O-binder: a leather strap to keep wires together, a clever connection between craftwork and technology. 

Pottery 
Similar to the leathercraft competition, BKRK hosted a design competition for pottery. The assignment remained creating an ordinary object made with extraordinary expertise. Stijn Schauwers’ No-spoon cups came in first and portrays creative originality: no spoon needed to add sugar or milk to your coffee in the waltzing espresso cup. 

Woodwork 
After leathercraft and pottery, woodwork became the main theme of another BKRK competition. Over 20 designers entered and submitted their own inventive items. The winning design, a sophisticated knife holder, was designed and created by cabinetmaker Steven Gauberg.

All of the items that were created for the BKRK design competitions are being sold in the Bokrijk museum shop. Which one of the winning designs is your favorite? If you’re curious, you can check out the other submissions here

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