Belgian designer Maarten Van Severen was born in Antwerp in 1956 and is best known for his strong silhouetted seating collections produced by Vitra.
The son of a well-known painter, Maarten Van Severen studied architecture at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent. He graduated after three years, and worked on various interior design and furniture projects. In 1986, he created his first piece of furniture, which was a long, narrow metal table (first in steel, then remodeled in aluminum). The following year, Van Severen established his own studio, where he produced his own designs on a semi-industrial level. This unified process of design and production became Van Severen’s signature, and allowed him to be involved in the creation of each piece from start to finish, resulting in designs which were almost always limited editions.
Known for his pared down, pure-in-form tables and storage units, it was not long before Van Severen abandoned them to focus almost solely on seating design. Like many designers, Van Severen dedicated himself to creating the ultimate chair, with optimal form and production processes. In 1996, Van Severen collaborated with Vitra, designing for the company until his death in 2005. During this time, he worked with a wide variety of materials including aluminum, plywood, steel, and Bakelite. His most notable chair designs for Vitra include the .03 chair (1998), MVS Chaise Lounge (2000), .06 chair (2005), as well as the LL04 lounge chair (2004) for Pastoe.
Over the course of his career, Van Severen’s designs were produced by several European furniture manufacturers including the aforementioned Vitra and Pastoe, as well as Bulo, Durlet, Edra, Kartell, Obumex, and Target Lighting. Many of his designs are still in production today. In addition to work as a furniture designer, Van Severen worked on residential projects in France with fellow architect Rem Koolhaas (b. 1944) for the Dutch architectural firm OMU and held teaching positions at the University College West Flanders in Kortrijk (1996), the Academy of Fine Arts in Maastricht (1996-97), Delft University of Technology (1998), and universities in Helsinki and Barcelona (2000).
In 2005, Van Severen died from cancer at the age of 46 in Ghent, Belgium. In 2008, the Maarten Van Severen Foundation was established in his memory, and is dedicated to preserving and promoting the designer’s artistic legacy. In addition to the Foundation, Van Severen’s works are housed in the Ghent City Archive, the Flemish Architectural Archives, the Design Museum in Ghent, and the Department of Architecture & Urban Planning in the University of Ghent.