Didier Faustino transforms a Belgian bar into a corporeal gathering space

Thick Skin

Didier Faustino transforms a Belgian bar into a corporeal gathering space

At the convergence of neoclassical architecture, sci-fi film sets, and North African ornamentation is Didier Faustino’s design of the XYZ Lounge in Ghent, Belgium. Unifying the refurnished bar and multipurpose auditorium is what the French-Portuguese architect calls a skin. The metal frame enclosure, clad in low-relief pink marble and interspersed vent grids, is intended to emulate human anatomy. In fact, this chamber acts as the heart of Zebrastraat, a co-living arts foundation.

A cafe clad in pink stone
XYZ Lounge’s bar is installed in a T-shape scheme, which allows for better circulation through the space and face-to-face communication. (Felipe Ribon)

“The main concept for this project was the idea of interstitial communication—how people’s bodies connect in time and space,” Faustino explains. “I wanted to magnify the voids that form in between these interactions, so as to create a level of drama.” Positioned at the core of Zebrastraat’s multibuilding complex, XYZ Lounge functions as a new communal space. Visitors and inhabitants can either pass through or stay for a while. This duality is reflected in all aspects of the interior design and custom furniture concept.

Rather than implement a standard linear counter, the architect installed a T-shaped scheme in the bar area, allowing for easier circulation and face-to-face communication. The adjoining auditorium space can be used as a lecture hall, cinema, dance club, art gallery, and restaurant—a frontal podium is conducive to all.

In the auditorium Faustino introduced 40 of his Delete Yourself chairs, a conceptual project he developed in 2016. Repurposed and recontextualized in this space, the geometric and monolithic seats come in two variants: angular and circular. Like the letters X and Y in the name of the space, which correspond to male and female chromosomes, the two variations are intended to refer to male and female gender identities. But the Z hints at the name of the Zebrastraat complex. “Part of what I wanted to accomplish with this project was to challenge the standard gender binary,” Faustino reveals. “Though the interior achieves ambiguity as the sum of its parts, certain strategic decisions, like the combination of pink and green color palates, suggest underlying themes.”

Green chairs
The auditorium space features 40 Delete Yourself chairs. Produced in two rotomolded variants—circular and angular—the seats can be arranged in different configurations. (Felipe Ribon)

Whether a public intervention, an exhibition design, an installation, or an architectural project, Faustino and his Paris-based team develop concepts based on the exploration of instability: the interaction between humans and their surroundings. The designer’s ultimate goal is to break habits that have been ingrained into society, culture, and education. With the design of the XYZ Lounge and its interplay between transitory and permanent space, Faustino demonstrates this approach.