‘Belgian Couch’: bluestone sculptures by Matthias Kohn

‘Belgian Couch’: Matthias Kohn’s bluestone sculptures explore home, nature and hospitality

Since June 2020, three East Belgian municipalities have each been enjoying the company of a bluestone sculpture by Aachen-based sculptor and designer Matthias Kohn. Together, the works installed in Eupen, Lontzen and Raeren make up ‘Belgian Couch’, an artwork commissioned by the East Belgium Tourism Agency. The title wasn’t chosen randomly, of course. The sculptures are, after all, not only beautiful to look at, but serve a functional purpose, too: they act as couches, inviting passers-by to settle in, get comfortable and contemplate their surroundings. For the backrests of his unique pieces of furniture, Kohn opted for Bluestone from Hainaut.

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19-11-2020
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The project in a nutshell

  • Three East Belgian municipalities
  • Sculptor and designer Matthias Kohn
  • Commissioned by the East Belgian Tourism Agency
  • Backrests in Bluestone from Hainaut

Local, high-quality product

Kohn's couches feature backrests made of solid blocks of Belgian blue limestone, while the seats are carved Belgian oak. Traditionally, both materials are widely used in the region. “The local aspect was important for this project”, Kohn explains. In addition, the sculptor felt immediately attracted to the quality of bluestone, as well as “the colour and structure of the stone in relation to the elements in Belgian oak”. Kohn is no stranger to the material either: he has been working with Belgian bluestone for over fifteen years now. “I like its workability and high density, its various finishing possibilities and, last but not least, the extraordinary smell that is released when sculpting this material created from fossilised, digested sludge.”

The feeling of home

Kohn goes on to add that blue limestone feels very familiar to him: “From the bluestone steps to my apartment to the many facades and other building elements,  bluestone truly is omnipresent in my hometown.” Reminding him of Aachen, the natural material was a fitting choice for “a project that plays with the themes of home, the private, and one’s native country."

Bluestone sculpted by hand

"The stone blocks were delivered to my studio in April 2020, according to my measurements”, Kohn explains. Upon receiving the raw material, Kohn got to work, taking several weeks to sculpt and hone the material millimetre by millimetre. Kohn: “To create the right shape, I first used rough tools. Later on, I turned to finer instruments until, in the final stages of the process, I used only my hands and sandpaper. The fine curves and curvatures took weeks of intensive labour.” By mid-June, ‘Belgian Couch was installed on-site. The three sculptures differ slightly, the proportions or the arrangement of the backrest, seat and armrests varying from couch to couch.

“Welcome, have a seat”

Kohn mostly hopes that people will actually use the couches and feel welcome to do so. “Thus, the project gets completed in different ways over and over again. Whether people randomly stumble upon the sculptures looking for a resting place during a hike, or whether they deliberately plan a trip to see them: there are different impressions to experience, depending on the location.” The time of the day will also create a different effect. After all, bluestone warms up in the sun, slowly and evenly, while the parts that end up in the shade remain pleasantly cool. The untreated stone changing over time is part of Kohn’s magnificent artwork, too, the parts most touched gaining a dark and polished patina.

Want to see and experience ‘Belgian Couch’ for yourself? All three locations are freely accessible and are indicated on this map. Happy exploring!