a playful design method
and contextual approach

By Gilbard, Colin Roustand & Jane Wright

Based in Anderlecht since 2019, GILBARD is a collective exploring the re-use of raw material waste in the development of local projects around art and design. The organisation is dedicated to sharing and creating with local resources. It actively aims to reshuffle and rethink contemporary production methods within the city of Brussels.

GILBARD organises different activities around a shared, collectively-run space located at Rue de Liverpool 77 in Anderlecht.

A bit of a Collective Story

Before GILBARD, there was the ‘Boite à Gants’, the erg’s recovery library, which still exists. Part of the team gathered around this first project and decided to continue the experience outside of school. The main challenge consisted in getting organised as an association that could explore how the recovery of raw materials can take place in a given context. This gave us the opportunity to experiment with collective and contextual forms of work around an existing project. Initially, this took place in Rue Abbé Cuylits 44, 1070 Anderlecht, in the Lemmens-Liverpool micro-area. In a former cement factory of 70m² with a huge silo, a sloping floor, a leaky roof… and an affordable rent.

Over time, we have been able to develop our activities and build trust within the neighbourhood. The team grew and was able to consider more ambitious projects. To do this, we decided to implement a hybrid economic system. On one hand, we receive public funding for local projects related to ecology and public space. On the other hand, we respond to commissions based on the reuse of materials, art and design: workshops, interior and urban furniture, exhibitions.

Three years have passed since we started the collective. We recently moved into a new space – a stone’s throw away from the old one: Rue de Liverpool 77, 1070 Anderlecht. It’s a warehouse that is three times bigger, which allows us to store a wider variety of materials and welcome more projects and users. We open our space and stock every Friday from 1.30 to 6 pm.

Shema_valorisation_Gilbard EN bigger.jpg

scheem of valorisation by Gilbard

We are processing things

Our approach is part of a comprehensive logic of re-use. The material is the central element: it motivates our creative process. This means reframing our design methodology around a material-centred approach. In this dynamic, projects are the result of compromises between the characteristics of the materials, their availability and the specificities of the design.

At Gilbard, we tend to question the design and production process by working together with heterogeneous reused materials – moving away from standardised design outcomes.

It is an approach that both stems and moves away from the concept of ‘form follows function’. Our methodology is defined by contexts, materials, processes and people. The practice of re-use allows us to decontextualise materials: to take them out of their common use and their economic value to re-imagine their potential uses.

We like to see ourselves like farmers working with local seeds or like chefs preparing a menu based on seasonal products. Improvisation is part of the creative process and it contributes to an active approach to construction. The boundary between design and production processes dissolves, creating a form of dialogue between the available material and the sensibility of each member of the collective as well as stakeholders in the project. In our opinion, the form should remain in motion and be guided by our interpretations of the context and the behaviour of materials.

Through Gilbard, we implement alternative systems and processes that stimulate curiosity and imagination. It is about completely reassessing our way of designing. In a dance between matter and the collective, we develop unexpected forms and materialities. ‘Letting ourselves be surprised’: this is what designing and producing from waste streams implies and brings. Composing with a small quantity of melamine, three metres of wooden beams and off-cuts of wooden battens: What does this imply?

things we do

The recovery and redistribution of construction materials

(wood, metal, textiles, etc.) is the most visible activity of the ASBL. It operates via an indirect barter system based on the model of La Fédération des Récupérathèques. From there, the other activities are organised around and thanks to the mutualisation of resources and reused materials.

Activation of Liverpool-Cuylits-Odon area

open to the public every Friday afternoon, installations in public space, access to the material library and design advice for local stakeholders

Experimentation with art and design

research, conception and production, publishing, organisation of events and exhibitions

Designing projects with and for other organisations

in the art and sociocultural sectors: indoor and outdoor furniture, scenography, design, project mentorship and workshops