Discover Benelux & France, Issue 18, June 2015

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I S S U E 18 | J U N E 2015




P R O M OT I N G B E LG I U M , T H E N ET H E R L A N D S , L U X E M B O U R G & F R A N C E

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Strip bar and late night restaurant Food, drinks and dancing in one part and in the other part the only real strip bar in town Come and visit one of the most amazing venues in Luxembourg For your events: or 00352 621 183 135

Food served until early morning . Open every day from 8pm to 9am Address : 13 rue Dicks L-1417 Luxembourg Tel : 00352 49 05 52

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Discover Benelux & France | Contents

Contents JUNE 2015





Jean-Christophe Péraud Finishing second in last year’s Tour de France came as a surprise to the entire cycling scene. Jean-Christophe Péraud talks through his experience, revealing how he is still at the top of his game at 38 years old.


Mini Theme – Vinexpo: Fine wines of France Tradition meets innovation, from rich, sustainably produced reds, to delectable whites without sulphites and norm-defying sparkling wines from the heart of the Champagne region.


Architecture and urbanism This special crosses the genres, including daring asymmetrical architecture from Luxembourg, French urbanism projects and Dutch interior design solutions.

22 48

Art at the Venice Biennale With this year’s theme All the World’s Futures we went round the pavilions to learn how the Benelux countries and France are displaying their contemporary art talents.


Discover the Netherlands: Utrecht Utrecht is a thriving city full of culture, events and interesting attractions, such as the mediaeval Dom Tower, the joyous Museum Speelklok and the compelling DOMunder experience.


Company profiles, regulars and more Our extra-long business section is packed with inspiring stories from entrepreneurs, accounts on sustainable real estate and company profiles from law practices, logistics companies and more. PLUS: Business calendar, page 76

Sustainable design Bags out of conveyor belts, eco-friendly basic clothing, beds from old scaffolding wood and innovative bike design, read all about it in this theme on sustainable design.



Attraction of the Month, the Netherlands The National Maritime Museum takes visitors on a tour of seafaring history. Learn about Michiel de Ruyter’s life and climb aboard a replica of a grand 18th century sailing ship.


DON’T MISS 6 Fashion Picks | 8 Desirable Designs 85 Out & About | 83 Lifestyle Columns

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Discover Benelux & France | Editor’s Note

Dear Reader,

Discover Benelux & France

Martin Pilkington

Issue 18, June 2015

Matt Antoniak

Published 06.2015 ISSN 2059-1454

Simon Woolcot Sonja Irani Steve Flinders

Published by Scan Group Cover Photo Yves Perret

Print Liquid Graphic Ltd.

Advertising Executive Editor

Thomas Winther Sales & Key Account Managers Creative Director

Mette Tonnesen

Mads E. Petersen

Yasmina Haddadi Steven Ebbers


Laura Mirandi

Myriam Gwynned Dijck

Sarah Soussi Sophie Plenert

Copy Editor Isa Hemphrey


Graphic Designer Joseph J. Ewin

Scan Group 15B Bell Yard Mews

Anyone who has been to the Netherlands knows that cycling is a big thing for us. For years it has been the world’s most cycle friendly nation and as a visitor it is impossible not to notice the busy bicycle traffic (tourists beware). For shorter distances the bike is the number one mode of transport for Dutchmen. It is estimated that there are 19 million working bicycles in the Netherlands, more than one per person. The reason we are so taken with the two-wheeled transportation is not just thanks to good cycle infrastructure, but also our temperate climate and of course, our uniquely flat landscape. This means that the Netherlands, as well as Flanders which shares many similarities, are not just great for commuters, they are also a fantastic destinations for active cycling holidays. With distances that are easy to overcome, why not go city hopping by bike this summer? Certainly the hard core cycling fans will have already booked their trip to the Netherlands. In a few weeks, the Grand Départ of the legendary Tour de France will take place in Utrecht, so now is a great time to explore the city (page 26). If that is not enough, then read our cover feature (page 22) with French cycling star and Tour contender Jean-Christophe Péraud.

Bermondsey Street


London SE1 3TY

Amélie Timmermans

United Kingdom

Ariane Glover Berthe van den Hurk Bettina Guirkinger Caroline Edwards Diego Philips

Phone +44 (0)870 933 0423 Fax +44 (0)870 933 0421 Email:

Cycling is also a recurring theme in the rest of this issue. In our sustainable design special, we feature two exceptional bicycle brands (page 55) and even in our business section cycling is the preferred mode for pizza delivery (page 72). So don’t wait around any longer, get on your bike and explore the Benelux and France from a new perspective.

Harun Osmanovic Heather Welsh Janine Sterenborg Josiah Fisk Lidija Liegis Liz Wenger

© All rights reserved. Material contained in this publication may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without prior permission of Scan Group – a trading name of Scan Magazine Ltd. This magazine contains advertorials/promotional articles.

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Myriam Gwynned Dijck, Editor

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Natural, Graceful and Simplicity

18-hole golf course located in Northen France - Avesnois Avesnois

Bois Saint-Pierre • 59144 Preux au Sart + 33 (0) info@golf-mor •

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Discover Benelux & France | Design | Fashion Picks


Bring on the sunshine! Summer is just around the corner and now is the time to get yourself prepared. The first step is to take out your newest beach bag, sunnies and bikini to the sea and, of course, don’t forget sunscreen. Have yourself a hot summer with our favourite fashion picks. TEXT: ARIANE GLOvER | PRESS PHOTOS


1: In the knit A stroll along the beach on a balmy night, a slight breeze, bare feet... so romantic! Make a statement for the evening with this beautiful, brightly coloured knitted cardigan from Tutu Chic, ensuring you stay warm when the sun goes down. Cardigan: €700


2: Don’t stop the fringe This season, the ‘70s are back and this includes fringes. Fill your Scotch & Soda shoulder bag with all your essentials and hit the beach trendier than ever before. €195

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Discover Benelux & France | Design | Fashion Picks

3: Like in the Caribbean This Nikkie Barbados maxi dress is the perfect companion to a breakfast on a beach terrace. The light colours and free flowing fabric will keep you cool and fashionable. Match it with a gorgeous pair of gladiator sandals and you’re good to go. €170

5: Pastels on white This lovely striped, white pastel dress by Tutu Chic is the ideal garment to just throw on at the beach and make your way to the bar for a cooling cocktail. This summer, stay stylish whilst getting sand in between your toes, and combine this Oyster dress with mix and match beach wear. Dress: €500



4: Around the world Don’t head off into the sun without your favourite one-piece swimsuit, like this one from French brand Filles à Papa. Be the perfect jetsetter in this piece whilst doing your morning run along the beach. €215


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Discover Benelux & France | Design | Desirable Designs


Into the wild Invite the wilderness into your home with natural materials and rough edges. Wood designed in natural shapes are taking the lead, created by some of the industry’s most innovative minds. In this month’s Desirable Designs we take a close look at furnishings with a forest-inspired twist. TEXT: CAROLINE EDWARDS | PRESS PHOTOS

2. Elegance in solid teak The Ethnicraft Naomi coffee table is a wooden masterpiece made from recycled materials, radiating homely warmth. This handy piece of furniture has ideal storage space for books, allowing you to combine coffee sipping with storytelling. €797

1. A farmer’s field day Inspired by a well-known farmer’s construction, the Field Chair connects indoor cosiness with outdoor pursuits. Grab yours and relax wherever the day takes you in a chair designed for comfort and reflection. €185

3. Bookshelves fit for the forest Olivier Dollé has crafted something stunning with this bookshelf. Its aerial structure that looks like branches, evokes a sense of the forest. Place your books on its wooden surface and it’s like they turn into birds! Just close your eyes and play along and invite Mother Nature into your home. €3500

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4. An honest piece of lighting This is as natural as it gets. Studio Floris Wubben has created a lamp solely from nature’s very own materials, an original design made out of a single branch with minimal modifications. Every lamp is its own unique piece of art. Price upon request.

5. Now that’s a desk Forget about studying while slumped on the couch. With Piet Hein Eek’s Tree Trunk desk and chair, things just got serious. These oak pieces are a part of a wider collection whose focal point is the rawness of the great outdoors, with unpolished looks that will leave you in awe. Chairs and tables are custom made, price upon request.

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Discover Benelux & France | Design | v.E.R.

Celebrating the little ones With three unique collections for children and parents and major distributors all over the globe, V.E.R. is a brand to be reckoned with, from toys for the very youngest to products perfect as gifts for new mums and dads. TEXT: MYRIAM GWYNNED DIJCK | PHOTOS: v.E.R.

The strength of the company is its ability to turn an idea into a real concept in very little time. “From idea to product sample can take less than two weeks. This makes us flexible and able to adapt quickly to market demand,” Jeroen visser says, one of the company founders. “Furthermore, we have the entire distribution process in our own hands, so we’re completely in control.” The company started in May 2009 with the KidzzCast collection, a product series aimed at parents for creating keepsakes of their newborn children in the form of, among other things, hand and feet imprints. From there the company grew and now has two more collections, KidzzFarm jumping animals and Label Label cosy blankets. “We distribute in 42 different countries to some of the biggest children’s

toys shops such as Toys R Us in the United States. We also just expanded to South Korea,” he says. KidzzFarm comprises of space hoppers in the shape of animals, including Bella the cow, Harry the horse and Sammy the pig. “Kids absolutely adore them and they instantly know how to use it. It’s not just fun, it’s also a good exercise that teaches children coordination and balance,” visser says. The collection was recently expanded and now includes bath toys shaped like the jumping animals. The Label Label cosy blankets are aimed at the very youngest and are available in many different shapes and colours, ranging from normal handkerchiefs to colourful animal shapes and three dimensional toys.

“Babies love cosy blankets and the Label Label products are unique because they have extra squares of fabric attached to them, like labels. Each label has a different colour, design and shape that babies can explore and play with.” Part of v.E.R.’s success is that it’s always looking to improve and create new products. Currently the company is in the final stages of developing a collection of puzzles and lunch boxes. visser adds: “The designs are inspired by the Label Label collection. We’ve already sold the first series of the lunch boxes, even before we started production!”

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Discover Benelux & France | Design | Duux

The compact and stylish Duux Air Purifier.

Healthy babies, happy parents In the world of baby electronics, most designs are cute and cuddly with soft colours. But if the parents are the ones using and buying them, why not create products that appeal to them? This is where Duux comes in, a baby electronics brand aimed at adults as much as at children. TEXT: MYRIAM GWYNNED DIJCK | PHOTOS: DUUX

Marketing manager Dennis Wessels explains: “The market is flooded with ‘childish’ products, leaving the actual user of the product (the parent) completely out of the consideration. Duux is a brand you can be seen with.” Founded in 2008 in the Netherlands, Duux produces stylish projectors, air humidifiers and air purifiers that are sold throughout the world. Wessels says: “Our philosophy is that we produce designs for parents, in particular fathers. They are often more technical and mostly decide on the purchase of electronics, while mothers are

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generally more engaged with baby clothing and furnishing the nursery.”

Pure air for health and happiness The Duux air purifier is available in a striking and elegant spherical design in black and white. Their compact and silent purifiers keep the air clean, while doubling as a nightlight and it also has an oil cup for aromatherapy. Wessels: “The lungs of newborns are often not developed enough to filter little dust particles out of the air. Especially the presence of pollen, dust, smoke as well as pets can have a negative impact on the health of the baby.”

With the Duux purifiers, parents don’t have to worry about the air quality in the house. Wessels notes that clean air is an important contributor to people’s health: “Many people don’t realise that indoor air quality is generally much worse than outside. Air pollution is actually in the top three of avoidable causes of death.” Alongside clean air, a healthy air humidity is also important. According to Wessels, many rooms, including nurseries, have an air humidity of below 40 per cent. In winter time this can drop further when the heating is on full blast. And during the summer,

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Discover Benelux & France | Design | Duux

the air conditioning blows dry air into the room. A pleasant level of humidity is around 50 per cent, but apart from comfort, it’s also better for the body. Wessels says: “Apart from aiding the spread of bacteria and viruses, dry air also causes dry skin, eyes and lips which can irritate the throat and airways because of bad breathing.”

Inherent quality For Duux product quality is paramount, but they see it as something intrinsic rather than something special. This is also reflected in their approach to design. Wessels explains: “We don’t just associate design with appearance, for Duux it’s twofold: a product has to be attractive and functional. The art of omission plays a big part in this.” With hundreds of shops and distribution points throughout Europe, North and Central America and Asia, this approach certainly paid off, but Wessels believes there are multiple factors to their success. “Firstly, we work with a small team where everyone can share their thoughts. We also have a lot of personal contact with our customers and distribution partners. Fur-

thermore we pay a lot of attention to marketing: from conveying our philosophy to the product design, packaging, manuals, website and shop presentation. We consider everything in the greatest detail.” Finally, the ‘Dutch design’ aspect appeals to international markets. “We work with Dutch design agencies and students to come up with new designs and incorporate novel technologies in a smart way (like LCD and LED lighting). Especially in Asia, people are very taken with our products.”

A bright future Looking forward into the future, Duux will focus on light and air related products for babies as well as adults. Design will continue to play a big role in this. “The Netherlands is full of talented designers that are bursting with ideas and we are keen to use these in our future designs,” Wessels concludes. “Moreover, we still have a few countries on our wish list that we don’t distribute to yet. It’s always exciting to see your own products in the shops when you go on holiday to the other side of the world!”

The stylish Ultrasonic Air Humidifier produces cool mist in a matter of seconds and despite its compact size, it can run for up to ten hours consistently. It has a built-in nightlight, timer function and uses around 80 per cent less power than most humidifiers. It is available in a playful mushroom design and sleek globes.

The award-winning Duux Bluetooth Baby Projector turns a nursery into a sky full of stars while playing pre-loaded lullabies or recorded messages from a smartphone, tablet or other device. It features multi-colour animated projections, a nightlight and activates automatically once your child starts crying.

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Discover Benelux & France | Care for Kids | CompaNanny

Excellent childcare for flexible needs An inspiring domestic environment where child development takes centre stage with flexible opening times and engaging nannies; this is how entrepreneur Bas Beek envisaged the perfect childcare. With CompaNanny, he made this ideal the new norm, providing parents and children with the best possible care available. TEXT: MYRIAM GWYNNED DIJCK | PHOTOS: COMPANANNY

Turning the concept of childcare on its head, Beek’s ambition was clear: it should not just be about relieving parents, CompaNanny would be a positive place where children can grow, with ambitious staff and welcoming day care centres. “We focus on solving common issues for working parents by offering generous opening times and flexible care packages, but we also inspire children to develop their social skills and form their own values," he says. Apart from providing day care at several centres in and around the Netherlands’ major cities, CompaNanny offers childcare services at home. “‘CompaNanny at Home’ is a dynamic childcare service where we focus on child development

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combined with flexibility for parents, relieving their daily routine. For example, the nanny can take the children to sports training or do your grocery shopping for you. It’s also easy to combine with our day care locations to ensure continuity in children’s development.” 'CompaNanny day care' and 'CompaNanny at Home' take the same approach, which Beek summarises in the company’s philosophy: the three phases of a child’s development ‘I, we, world’. He explains: “Children develop from a self-centred creature (I), to someone who looks for interaction with others (we), to a social person who is aware of the impact their actions have on their growing environment

(world). This growth of perception requires the development of various skills within each of these three levels.”

Developing children and staff To ensure this optimal development, CompaNanny uses several established pedagogical methods. Beek says: “Thorough research taught us what works best for children. For infants and toddlers we combine the theories of Emmi Pikler and Reggio Emilia, aiming to facilitate children to experience, investigate and develop their own potential themselves from an early age. Besides, all nannies use the How2Talk2Kids method, for better communication between children and adults.” Beek also prides himself on CompaNanny’s

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Discover Benelux & France | Care for Kids | CompaNanny

staff, which comprises of a mix of nannies with a practical childcare degree and higher educated staff. He explains: “According to research it is essential to have an optimal mix of knowledge and skills, so people can learn from each other and continue to develop these skills. Furthermore we invest a lot of time in training, up to 70 hours per person a year, which is double the industry standard. This creates a positive learning environment which also reflects on the children.”

From concept to international success Beek came up with the idea for CompaNanny while working as a business consultant for a multinational company. “I did a project on childcare and got to know the market. I was struck by the state of some of the day care centres; many were dirty, staff took no pride in their work and they just didn’t feel like good places for kids,” he says. That’s when Beek decided to set up his own, starting with the first CompaNanny location in Amsterdam in 2003. “I’ve always wanted to set up my own company, be my own boss and create something meaningful in this world. Also, I’ve always had an affinity with kids, so this was perfect.”

Beek perfected his concept for three years in Amsterdam before opening a second centre. By now the company counts 16 locations in the Netherlands and it is still growing fast. “Since we started we’ve continually grown against a shrinking trend in the industry. Two years ago we decided to look abroad for opportunities and this led us to China.” Currently in Shanghai, Beek is busy with the opening of the second China-based CompaNanny day care centre. “Although Chinese culture is very different from the Dutch, our goal to give future generations the best possible care and development is a universal concept. We try to find common ground and expand slowly,” he concludes.

24/7 childcare at Schiphol Airport Specially aimed at staff working irregular hours at the airport, CompaNanny at Schiphol Airport offers childcare seven days a week, 24 hours a day. With enhanced flexibility, parents can receive the care they need, while providing children with a welcoming and homely environment. Beek adds: “We try to anticipate what parents need, and adjust to that. So for example if they return late, we offer the option for parents to sleep in a bed nearby the children and go home the next morning. This way the child’s night isn’t interrupted.”

CompaNanny caters for children from zero to 12 years old and has centres in Amsterdam, Amstelveen, The Hague, Oegstgeest, Rotterdam, Schiphol Airport, Voorburg and Shanghai (China). CompaNanny at Home is available throughout the Netherlands.

Founder Bas Beek

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Discover Benelux & France | Attraction of the Month | The Netherlands

AT T R A C T I O N O F T H E M O N T H , T H E N E T H E R L A N D S

Explore the world! Have you always wanted to know what it is like to be an explorer? At The National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam you can experience this first hand, without leaving the shore. TEXT: JANINE STERENBORG

The National Maritime Museum (Het Scheepvaartmuseum) is an impressive and beautiful place just by itself. As the former warehouse of the Admiralty of Amsterdam, the precursor of the navy, it has great historical value. Linda Mol, head of exhibitions and interpretation, explains: “In the 17th century, Amsterdam was the centre of shipping and trading. Without shipping, the Netherlands wouldn't exist.” The National Maritime Museum owns one of the world’s top maritime history collections, which is presented in a way for everyone to enjoy. Mol: “You can even follow in the footsteps of Dutch naval hero Michiel de Ruyter, who must have spent quite some time here.”

Life on board Right next to the museum, in the Amsterdam harbour, where a replica of the famous ship

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Amsterdam is docked. It was a grand sailing ship of the Dutch East India Company (vOC), which perished near the coast of England in 1749. Mol: “On this replica, you can hoist, load, crawl through the hold and fire a cannon. It’s something both kids and adults enjoy.”

History of navigation The world map as we know it was finetuned throughout the centuries. Mol: “After a new discovery, explorers would complement the existing world maps with new information they gathered on their travels.” The National Maritime Museum owns a beautiful collection of these maps, showing this progress. Mol: “And while at sea, explorers used increasingly precise instruments, like the octant and the sextant.” These interesting navigation instruments are exhibited in a stunning

gallery. “Surrounded by a star filled sky, you’ll get a sense of what it must have been like to navigate in a world without satellites.”

Home of a naval hero In what is now The National Maritime Museum, Admiral Michiel de Ruyter, the most famous naval hero in Dutch history, attended meetings, loaded his ship and lived opposite the building. The museum composed a programme dedicated to his life, including an exhibition, a city tour and live music. “Being able to host this in a place where such history took place, still feels unreal,” Mol concludes. Left Photos: Eddo Hartmann Right Photo: Marjo van Rooyen

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Discover Benelux & France | Mini Theme | vinexpo: Fine Wines of France


The world of wine and spirits invites you to Bordeaux TEXT: vINEXPO | PHOTOS: TOP: vINCENT BENGOLD, BOTTOM: GILLES ARROYO

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Discover Benelux & France | Mini Theme | vinexpo: Fine Wines of France Photo: Gilles Arroyo

Wine is inextricably linked with the destiny of Bordeaux, playing a vital part in its history and its future. The capital of one of the world’s finest wine-producing regions, the port city of Bordeaux has always been an important centre for the international wine trade. It has a rich architectural heritage with its magnificent 17th century façades, listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites, which were built by wealthy vineyard owners and wine merchants. vinexpo is a true reflection of the city’s open, dynamic attitude. This year from 14 to 18 June, the world’s most important wine and spirits exhibition has reinvented itself, to renewed splendor under the banner ‘taste the unexpected’. Some 48,000 professionals from 120 countries will gather to do business together, expand their networks and taste new products. The show has been completely redesigned for this 18th edition, with new areas, a new focus on gastronomy, top-quality services and official networking parties. Although vinexpo is not open to the public, locals and tourists are invited to tie-in events taking place in the city of Bordeaux where they can explore the wines of the world. At 6pm every day the French specialist magazine Terre de Vins will host tastings of different French appellations at emblematic locations across the city of Bordeaux. With the United States as guest country at vinexpo 2015, Sara Matthews, an American photographer who specialises in images of wine, will be exhibiting her work at various venues around Bordeaux, such as the harbour side, the city hall and sites close to the Bordeaux Lac Exhibition Centre.

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Photo: Gilles Arroyo

The Vinexpo story

Photo: Deepix

Photo: Gilles Arroyo

Photo: Thomas Sanson

Founded in 1981 by the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce and Industry, vinexpo has now become the must-attend event for key players in the wine and spirits sector. A crucial B2B and networking platform, vinexpo is also a global trends observatory, pinpointing and analysing market developments. For the past 17 years, vinexpo Overseas, has been exporting the vinexpo brand and know-how to other parts of the globe. In 1998 the first vinexpo Asia-Pacific was held in Hong Kong, followed in 2000 and 2002 by two editions in Tokyo. There have also been two vinexpo Americas, the first in New York in 2002, the second in Chicago in 2004. Every even-numbered year since 2006 has seen vinexpo Asia-Pacific taking place in Hong Kong, while in 2014 Tokyo hosted the first vinexpo Nippon.

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Discover Benelux & France | Mini Theme | vinexpo: Fine Wines of France

Tradition with innovation The champagne house of Louis de Sacy has been making much lauded bubbly since the 1960s, though their ancestors have grown vines on their land since the 17th century. TEXT: MARTIN PILKINGTON | PHOTOS: COURTESY OF CHAMPAGNE LOUIS DE SACY, MICHAëL BOUDOT

In 1962 winemaker André Sacy decided the time was right to use the grapes grown on the family’s land to make champagne. It was not exactly a hasty decision: “My family have been vignerons on this land for 13 generations,” explains granddaughter Yaël Sacy. In 2012 she and her brother Jonathan joined the family firm, headed since 1998, by their father Alain. Their holding is centred on verzy, one of Champagne’s Grand Cru villages at the very heart of the appellation. As is usual for the region it is not in one spot, instead it is dotted over 23 different parcels of vines amounting to 18 hectares, and they purchase grapes from five further hectares owned by a few select neighbours. Louis de Sacy champagnes (named for an ancestor, an illustrious man of letters) are made with just three grape varieties, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. Yet each tiny corner brings its special characteristics to the house styles, as they produce nine different versions in all. “The best introductions to our wines are the Cuvée

Brut Originel and the Cuvée Brut Grand Cru,” advises Yaël. “They both display our typical red fruit and vinous qualities, and toasty note, with the Grand Cru the ultimate expression of our terroir.”

Champagne Louis de Sacy is holding a traditional ‘dégorgement à la volée’ Monday 15 June from 12 noon to 2pm at their vinexpo stand, Hall 1, D219

The Louis de Sacy house manages the neat trick of being both traditional and innovative: “We’ve made kosher champagne, just a few thousand bottles a year, for 20 years now,” she says. Their willingness to challenge accepted norms is seen too in their Cuvée Inédite Blanc de Blancs, made from 100 per cent Chardonnay grapes from verzy, where a sea of Pinot Noir surrounds them. “We work with contacts developed by the family over the last 50 years,” she adds: “Half of our wine is exported, including to the Benelux countries, and the other half stays in France. We avoid major distribution networks, we guard our reputation very carefully.”

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Discover Benelux & France | Mini Theme | vinexpo: Fine Wines of France

Centuries of tradition and savoir faire The story of Champagne Drappier runs through the eight generations that have perfected the art of producing a champagne of the highest quality. It is a successful family business that today provides true delight to the senses of their customers all over the world. TEXT: BETTINA GUIRKINGER | PHOTOS: CHAMPAGNE DRAPPIER

While the vineyards themselves were planted over 2,000 years ago by the GalloRomans in Urville, it was St Bernard, founder of the Abbey of Clairvaux, who built the cellars in 1152. Seven centuries later, in 1808, they became the property of the Drappier family and the estate is ran today by Michel Drappier who is proud to keep the medieval heritage. This is a reason why the house still produces the unforgettable and timeless varieties of their collection: Arbane, Petit Meslier and the Blanc vrai.

Urville Renowned for being a land of Pinot Noir, the Jurassic composition of the soil in Urville

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and its surroundings is identical to Grand Cru Chablis, allowing for a unique breed of grapes which make great Champagnes. The vineyards are cultivated in an organic, sustainable and natural way, all of which create the ideal conditions for the finest quality of grapes. Particular attention is paid to keeping the levels of sulphite in the bottles very low, so that the end product is authentically fizzy and not overdone. This fine balance is what makes the Drappier brand so appreciated among the connoisseurs and the Cuvée Brut Nature Without Sulphur so unique. With this composition, the Drappier savoir faire is able to highlight the multifaceted aspects of their terroirs and their winemaking.

The vineyard spreads over an area of 90 hectares, between the Côte des Bar, home to ancient vines, the Montagne de Reims, known for its powerful Pinot Noir and the Côte des Blancs, famous for its fine Chardonnay. Michel Drappier is proud to say that: “Without this exceptional vineyard that sees its future through its roots, the Drappier house would not have achieved the reputation it enjoys now. We owe it to this unique land.”

A perfected production process “For us, producing the highest quality of champagne goes from selecting the best grapes to choosing the best techniques for an optimal taste and texture. This is why

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Discover Benelux & France | Mini Theme | vinexpo: Fine Wines of France

Above Left to Right: Carte d'Or Champagne Brut Nature Without Sulfur Champagne Brut Nature Rosé Champagne Quatre Blancs

some of the ageing will take place in wooden casks made of the best wood in France,” he says. The task of selecting the grapes requires specific knowledge to retain the spirit of each parcel of land and capitalises on each grape’s characteristics. As for the amount of fizz, Drappier says: “We are fiercely opposed to excessive use of sulphur and use the weakest dose in our profession. This results in the Champagnes we produce have more natural colours with rich, coppery gold and more expansive aromas. This is our way to respect our customer as well as generating a fine, subtle effervescence.” While the vintage varieties age in the cool darkness of the Reims cellars, dug out of chalk in 1870, the large-sized bottles are prudently lined up in the twelfth century cellar. “As for the ‘liqueur d’expedition’, they are aged in oak casks, then in demijohns for a period of over ten years, in or-

der to gain concentration and refinement. The ‘dosage’ of this extraordinary liqueur accentuates the duration of taste in the mouth all without overburdening the palate. The Champagne obtained in this way is more complex and also purer,” says Drappier.

Innovation Centuries of tradition and medieval heritage hasn’t prevented the Drappier house to constantly look for ways to innovate and bring new tastes to the palates of their customers. Being the only producer offering champagne born out of four types of white grapes and proud creators of a 100 per cent Pinot Noir Rosé Nature Brut, the Drappier family hasn’t stopped to amaze its varied and international clientele. A couple of house classics include the Carte d’Or, a bottle that expresses all the aromas of the noble grape variety of Pinot

Noir. Another one would be the Charles de Gaulle, named after one of its most famous aficionados. Truly vintage, the Charles de Gaulle Cuvée is composed of 80 per cent Pinot Noir and 20 per cent Chardonnay. Not to mention the Grande Sendrée vintage, a complex rich blend of hints of citrus fruits, hazelnuts and almonds with the touch of vanilla coming to life with the Chardonnay and violet scent with the Pinot Noir.

A bright future ahead Always eager to be at the top of their art, the Drappier house is proud to be developing new tastes for every season and every occasion and remain a recognisable name in the competitive field of Champagne creation. “The aim is to keep evolving towards quality and variety,” Drappier concludes.

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Discover Benelux & France | Mini Theme | vinexpo: Fine Wines of France

A wine that respects Mother Nature What you put in nature is what you take out. This is might help to summarise the effort taken by the Vignerons de Buzet in the South West of France. Founded in 1953, this co-op accounts for 1,870 hectares of vineyards, which is over 90 per cent of the entire AOC Buzet brand name. Today managed by Pierre Philippe, they have taken it upon themselves to develop a sustainable and eco-friendly approach to making wine. TEXT: HARUN OSMANOvIC | PHOTOS: vIGNERONS DE BUzET

More and more people are waking up to the fact that it is crucial we start making conscious efforts to preserve what in effect is our livelihood. Those efforts cannot be meaningless marketing stunts and organic labels, it is in fact our whole paradigm that we must shift if we are to achieve actual change. This is why the vignerons de Buzet have a holistic approach to respecting nature, and also why people love their products. “This adventure is first and foremost one of passion for wine,” explains Pierre Philippe. “We love grapes and offering the best quality wine to folks who share our passion but also to those who simply want to savour a nice glass at a family dinner.”

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The co-op includes some 200 wine makers growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot for rosés and reds and Sauvignon and Sémillon for whites. One of their signature products is called Sans, which stands for ‘without’ (as in without added sulphites). “There is a strong demand for wines that have been made without added sulphite, and if that is something people want, if it is a more natural process and respects nature, why not take on the challenge,” says Philippe in regards to the co-op's choice to develop such a range of products. Sulphites refer to SO2, or sulphur dioxide, which are compounds that occur naturally in the vinification process but which most

producers add in extra in order to prevent the wine turning into vinegar. “I cannot recommend our Sans red and rosé enough, especially for people with SO2 intolerance… open it some 30 minutes before serving and the success is guaranteed,” continues Philippe. The vintner's efforts, however, are not limited to the quality of their wine. “Our ideal for a sustainable industry concerns every aspect of our business,” says the managing director. Thus, the vignerons de Buzet have diminished the frequency of some pesticide treatments and discontinued some optional ones, which has enabled them to win the Bee Friendly label awarded to agricultural ventures that respect bees.

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Discover Benelux & France | Mini Theme | vinexpo: Fine Wines of France

An eco-friendly masterpiece The latest creation from the vignerons de Buzet is called Oniric, a masterpiece of technological progress and respect for nature, it is an experience, a daydream and a statement. It was created with grapes at the optimal level of maturity, those picked at the very last minute of harvest in 2012. Oniric is almost black in colour, with a hint of purple. Its scent is powerful with notes of blackcurrant, vanilla and toast. Rich on the palate, it has lots of body offered by a great structure with no harshness due to beautifully coated tannins and much sweetness.

“There is an equilibrium to find, obviously our grapes must remain healthy, but ultimately we try to spray our vineyards as little as we can, which means that the control and selection of the grapes must be much more meticulous.” But it goes beyond that, when a lot of soil is being impoverished by the intensity of our agriculture, the vignerons de Buzet are striving to reintroduce species such as the little owl, the tulip from Agen and the common kestrel to name a few. “We replant bushes because it allows the ecosystem to be more balanced as it allows little rodents and rabbits to have a place to shelter,” continues Philippe, “and we try to avoid wastes of water as well as glass by work-

ing closely with our supplier in order to design bottles that match our philosophy.” The viticulturists of Buzet are inviting you to come visit their fields and, in the time of a ballad among wine trees, learn more about their craft from the selection of grapes to a tasting session.

Because nature gives generously, it is important to salute the efforts of those trying to have a direct impact. As such the vignerons de Buzet will continue to use cutting edge technology and extraordinary expertise in order to offer wines that people love without ever compromising on their eco-friendly methods, which have been proven successful on many accounts.

Reintroducing the little owl species, planting bushes and reducing the amount of glass in the making of a bottle are some of the concrete actions in the sustainability plan of vignerons de Buzet

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Discover Benelux & France | Cover Feature | Jean-Christophe PĂŠraud

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Discover Benelux & France | Cover Feature | Jean-Christophe Péraud


Coming up fast on the outside Beginning his professional road racing career at an age when some cyclists may start to think about retirement, Jean-Christophe Péraud’s story is as unconventional as it is inspiring. TEXT: MARTIN PILKINGTON | PHOTOS: YvES PERRET

Jean-Christophe Péraud uses the word ‘atypical’ to summarise how he came to figure among cycling’s road racing elite. It’s an understatement. At 37 he finished second in the 2014 Tour de France, but more astounding than his age was that his background was in a very different cycling discipline.

fessional. In 2011 he switched to Ag2r – La Mondiale, and in his first Tour de France for them he finished ninth. This was another feat that stunned the sport as cross country is very much an individual effort, while road racing is about teamwork and group tactics.

It’s all in the mind Hitting the road “I had a long career as a cross country cyclist, where I competed until the age of 32, and then at 32 I did my first Tour de France and became a road racer,” he says matter-of-factly. That cross country career was a glittering one, and included an Olympic silver medal at Beijing in 2008, after which he sought a new challenge. The peak age for a road cyclist is generally thought to be around 28 but in 2009, a few weeks after his 32nd birthday, he won the French National Time Trial Championships. To say that the road racing world was surprised is an understatement. The skills and tactics in the two fields are very different, but as Péraud says when questioned about the differences in cycling technology: “In the end it’s still just two wheels, two pedals and a rider.” That time trial success brought an offer from Belgian professional team Omega Pharma-Lotto, with which he turned pro-

His educational background perhaps explains how he could analyse what was needed to make the change: he’s a qualified chemical engineer, something that’s not exactly common among his new peers. And chemical engineering is notoriously an extremely demanding field. Unlike many sportsmen too he has no superstitions, no lucky charms, seeming surprised even to be asked about such things. His choice of an alternative sporting activity, when his work and family life allow, is equally telling: “I enjoy doing some climbing,” he says: “It helps get the body in shape for cycling.” And it is, of course, another activity where continual focus is required. Not everything has gone smoothly in his new career: “The nightmare for a road cyclist is falls,” he says: “It’s a danger that we have to face all the time. In 2013 I broke my collar bone and had to retire from that year’s Tour de France, that’s one of the worst things that has happened to me in the sport.”

Strangely for those of us who are not made like Péraud, he sees confronting road racing’s unavoidable pain as one of its most attractive aspects for the top competitors. It doesn’t matter if that pain comes from pushing the muscles beyond what seems physically possible, or crashing your bike at speed: “There is plenty of suffering in the sport, but that is part of the attraction, it lets you test your limits, extend those physical limits; you are against your rivals but also competing with yourself,” he says. Rather more comprehensible for the rest of us are the simpler, if fleeting, pleasures of the life: “Naturally you have to really focus on the race, but there are occasional moments during five hours on the saddle when things are not quite so intense, and you have a second or two to look at the countryside around you.” He mentions the beauty of the Breton coast, and Corsica, as places where he has been particularly taken with the landscape during various races (he won the Critérium International in Corsica in 2014 and 2015, so perhaps that success helps sweeten the memories).

The Tour de France “The Tour is special because of its history, I think it’s the oldest such event,” he says: “But also because we go through some absolutely beautiful parts of France, so

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Discover Benelux & France | Cover Feature | Jean-Christophe Péraud

ter this year? “My chances of winning the 2015 Tour are not perhaps very great, the field is full of top quality riders from around the world, and though I’m still of international standard the last step between being a top class rider and the best rider of all is a big one.” A win for Jicé would delight France and perhaps please the sentimental, and those past the first flush of youth, around the world. All in all it’s an exhausting career, but one he’s keen to continue for some time yet: “Some riders have continued at the top of the sport beyond 40, I’m nearing the end of my career and am aware of that, but the end is only approaching slowly so far! But cycling remains very much my passion, so I’d like to continue in the sport in some capacity after finishing my career as a top class rider, but I’m a qualified engineer so I could potentially return to that earlier career path,” he concludes. spectators get to see the race itself and some magnificent countryside.” He enjoyed last year’s stages in England, where the tour began, and is looking forward to the Grand Départ in Utrecht this year in early July: “The start last year in Yorkshire was a great success, with huge numbers of spectators lining the route. It’s good for the event, good for the sport to get more people interested in it.” But Jicé makes it very clear that the tour cyclist’s life is nothing like tourism: “Our daily routine is to rise at nine o’clock, eat breakfast, bus transfer to the start, team briefing, ride the stage, take the team bus back to the hotel, massage, evening meal, sleep. And that’s for the twenty one days where we are competing, with only the two rest days where things are at all different.”

Food as fuel And the diet that the cyclists ‘enjoy’ for the duration of the Tour is not something that would excite many Frenchmen: “We take energy drinks during the race, and at night to recharge our batteries we consume large quantities of pasta and rice.” It’s surprising that even though he will be riding around 150 kilometres every day, he

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does not expect to lose any weight during the arduous race: “We begin the event in peak condition, and the aim is to maintain that with a balance of energy expended and food consumed to replace it,” says the engineer. Given his racing weight is just 62 kilos he has little or no spare flesh in the first place. The life is clearly very tough, something that in spite of the fierce rivalries sees a special atmosphere develop among teammates and fellow competitors: “Of course there’s a camaraderie within the team, we spend twenty or so days together during the Tour de France, but outside the team too, there may be previous connections, former team-mates now in different teams, and it’s a shared challenge.” An aspect of the life that he accepts as part of his job, but that one may guess he could do without, is the immediate postrace press inquisition: “It’s not easy that once you’ve finished a stage you have to respond to the different media,” he states.

Jean-Christophe Péraud at a glance Born: Toulouse, 22 May 1977 (38) Height: 1.72m (5’8’’) Weight 62kg Team: Ag2r-La Mondiale Nickname: Jicé Occupation: Qualified engineer

Career Highlights Winner Critérium International in 2014 and 2015

Hopes for 2015

Overall 2nd in the Tour de France 2014

Last year he finished second in the Tour with third-placed Thibaut Pinot, the first Frenchmen to enjoy podium finishes since the turn of the century. Can he go one bet-

French Time Trail Champion 2009 Silver medallist in Beijing Olympics 2008

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Discover Benelux & France | Cover Feature | Jean-Christophe PĂŠraud

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Utrecht: Unexpected city of marvels After last month's uncovering of Ghent, Belgium’s hidden gem, we continue with an underrated but fantastic city in the Netherlands: Utrecht. With thousands of years of history, spectacular sights, compelling attractions and a bustling city centre, it is the perfect destination for a city break, without having to dodge hordes of tourists. TEXT: MYRIAM GWYNNED DIJCK | PHOTOS: TOERISME UTRECHT (DOM TOWER)

Located at the heart of the Netherlands, Utrecht is only 40 kilometres from Amsterdam, or half an hour by train. With 320,000 inhabitants it is also home to a growing number of young people with one of the country’s major universities. Thanks to the large covered shopping area of Hoog Catharijne and the cosy boutiques along the Twijnstraat, there are also plenty of opportunities to pick up a bargain.

Utrecht’s most important landmark and the highest church tower in the country. Around 700, the influential Roman Catholic missionary Willibrord built a cathedral and laid the foundation for Utrecht to become a religious centre. In medieval Europe, it was one of the most influential seats of power for the Roman Catholic Church and in the 16th century the first (and only) Dutch pope, Adriaan Floriszoon Boeyens, came from Utrecht.

Utrecht through the ages The history of Utrecht began two centuries ago when the Romans built a fortress in 47 AD. This ‘castellum’ called Trajectum was constructed where the Dom Tower stands today, which is

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During the 11th and 14th centuries a network of canals was dug and Utrecht became the Netherlands’ most important city (until it was overtaken centuries later by Amsterdam). As much of the old city still in-

tact and the centre is compact and easy to navigate by foot, we embarked on a walking tour to learn more of Utrecht’s past and present. First we head outside the former city walls and walk towards the Railway Museum, which is housed in a former train station. Our guide, Jitte says: “Soon these streets will be lined with Tour de France spectators for the Grand Départ as the first time trial will go past here.” Winding our way through little streets and hidden squares we arrive at the Ganzenmarkt, where heavy merchandise like wine barrels were lifted out of the ships by a giant crane, and rolled up a tunnel passage towards the weigh

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Discover Benelux & France | City Feature | Utrecht

house. Nothing remains of the crane, but the tunnel is still open to the public.

A luxury castle at its best We pass by the victorian façade of the Winkel van Sinkel location with its cast iron caryatids, famous for being the first Dutch department store chain. Hungry from the morning walk, we settle down for lunch at Stan & Co and then head to our next destination: De Haar Castle. Located just west of Utrecht, the neogothic De Haar was completely rebuilt in the late 19th century as a luxury castle, partly funded by baroness and Rothschild heir Hélène. We’re taken on a special cuisine themed tour, with our first stop: the kitchen. It is equipped with what were at the time hyper modern facilities. From selfrotating meat spits above the fire place, to instant hot water taps and built-in soup and sauce heaters.

Photo: Castle De Haar

In the richly ornamented dining room we learn about the nobility’s social dinner rules and strict seating orders. After a brief glance in the impressive main hall, we end the tour in the ballroom. Here we see one of the castle’s main showpieces, an original 18th century Japanese carrier coach for the woman of a Shogun. Only one other remains in the world, in Tokyo. The dark wood is richly decorated with bronze and lacquer and the seat is completely enclosed, as the general public was not allowed to see the women inside. After the tour we go for a quick walk around the gardens and then jump in the taxi.

Dining in a historic cellar Back in Utrecht it’s time for dinner at the restaurant Den Draeck, which is located alongside the Oudegracht, or old canal, in one of the old wharf cellars. It serves modern Dutch cuisine with an old Utrecht flavour, which seems very fitting in the setting. The complex of canals, wharves and cellars in Utrecht is unique in the world. In the Middle Ages, the waterways were the primary form of transport. With the canals being several feet below street level, all the goods had to be hoisted from ship to

Photo: Oliver Schuh

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Discover Benelux & France | City Feature | Utrecht

Photo: Mike Bink

shore, carried across the street, only to be lowered again into the storage cellars below the houses. To ease this cumbersome process, little tunnels were dug straight from basement to quayside, passing underneath the public streets. Over time the tunnels were widened and the cellars extended to form Utrecht’s characteristic, deep barrel-vaulted wharf cellars. By the 16th century virtually the entire two kilometre stretch of the Oudegracht was occupied by them. In the last century, water transport went out of use but the 731 wharf cellars remain. After extensive restoration works, many are in use again today, but now as boutiques and restaurants such as Den Draeck. In the summer, outdoor terraces line the quaysides, making the Oudegracht once again the vibrant heart of the city. After a great meal in this historic setting, we retire for the evening.

Going underground Feeling refreshed after a night at the Court Hotel, we head to the Dom, at only a

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Photo: Willem Mes, Toerisme Utrecht

stone’s throw away. There we get a guided tour of one of Utrecht’s newest attractions, DOMunder, which opened a year ago. DOMunder is located underneath the Dom Square. We descend the stairs and start the experience by watching an animated film on the Dom’s dramatic history. The story wizzes through the ages and recounts the terrible events in 1674 when a tornado tore through the area, devastating everything in its way including the gothic Dom church. While the tower was miraculously spared, the main nave completely collapsed. The rubble wasn’t actually cleared for 150 years, and for decades the ruins lay as a shrine to the catastrophe. From 1875 the Dom complex was thoroughly renovated and a new entrance opened the tower up to modern tourism. After the film we’re shown a semi dark room, where the old church foundations loom in front of us. Armed with a torch we explore the archeological relics. Connected to a headset, the torch has a special motion sensor so every time you shine the

light on an artefact it triggers an audio story. There are dozens scattered around the site and it feels like a true discovery tour as we learn about the Roman brick foundations, medieval pottery and the ancient coins found here.

Panorama of Utrecht Afterwards we go next door and enter the 600 year old tower itself. The medieval design certainly didn’t leave room for lifts, so we are left to our own two feet to get to the top, 112 metres high. The climb starts easily enough, but soon the wide steps make way for increasingly narrow spiral stairs. After passing several levels where we stop briefly for a chat from the guide Roos, we arrive at the bel house. Here she chirpily talks us through the different sounds and sizes. The largest bel, christened Salvator, is two metres wide, weighs over 8,200 kilos and of course demands a demonstration. As we all cover our ears Roos gives a swing with a hammer and we can feel the bell’s vibrations shiver through our spines. “This was heard throughout Utrecht,” she says.

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Discover Benelux & France | City Feature | Utrecht

With a deep breath we continue our uphill conquest. After landing on the carillon level there is only a short way to go. It is also the most treacherous part, as the walls of the winding staircase are just a shoulder width apart. But the fantastic view and feeling of accomplishment were certainly worth it, having ascended all 465 steps. From here we can also see the coloured cobbles of the Dam Square below, marking the outlines of the church nave that once stood here. On a clear day, we’re told you can see as far as Amsterdam. Not quite that lucky, we nevertheless gratefully take in the panorama before making our way down again.

activates a small hanging carillon which is powered by weight. The instrument springs into action and plays a cheerful song which resonates through the church building, where the museum is housed. We move on to several standing clocks that play intricate melodies but we are really fascinated by a small, stuffed nightingale on a box from the late 19th century. When Ruben turns the handle, the mechanical bird bursts into a song complete with beak and wing movements. The sound is created by tiny windpipes in the box. “This way people could make sure their bird would only play their favourite melodies,” he says.

Schuyt. Ruben says: “It was built for outdoor fairs so it had to be loud enough to drown out the crowds. It’s claimed to be the loudest street organ around.” After hearing the machine bellow its tones, we conclude that is probably true. We then head for a quick final drink near the almighty Dom Tower before collecting our bags from the Court Hotel and making our way back to station. After a quick train ride to Hoek van Holland, we catch the overnight Stena Line ferry and have a delicious last meal on board before retreating to our cabin to wake up back in England the next morning.

The Netherland’s most cheerful museum After a quick coffee break at nearby café Graaf Floris we head on to Museum Speelklok, which is dedicated to ‘self-playing instruments’. As our guide Ruben explains, these require three parts, a part that make a sound, a part the dictates the melody and a power source. The museum has an extensive collection of music boxes, melodic clocks and several of the typically Dutch street organs, many of which still work. As a demonstration of this, Ruben

Next we see a variety of barrel organs. One is nicknamed ‘the goat’ because “they attempted to imitate the human singing voice, but didn’t get it quite right,” laughs Ruben. Another has a full circus of moving figures built around the organ that spring to life with the music. Then we’re taken to what appears to be a normal piano, but at the touch of a button it starts playing itself, as if a ghost is playing. To finish the tour we’re taken to a 1930s dance organ, De

Discover Utrecht: - Attend the Grand Départ of the Tour de France from 1 to 5 July. - The city is the home of Dick Bruna, creator of Miffy (nijntje) see page 82. - Catch the free public light installations of the Trajectum Lumen in the city centre. - Visit the UNESCO monument Rietveld Schröder House, an abstract 1920s building completely designed according to De Stijl.

Photo: Schnell und Steiner

Museum Speelklok. Photo: Toerisme Utrecht

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Discover Benelux & France | Special Theme | Architecture and Urbanism


Architecture and urbanism For spectacular examples of contemporary architecture you don’t have to look far in the Benelux or France. Encompassing all styles, with a focus on smart, environmentally friendly solutions that work perfectly in their environment, some of the world most impressive buildings are constructed in this region. TEXT: MYRIAM GWYNNED DIJCK | PRESS PHOTOS

To showcase some of these innovative projects, we will feature several architects who present their work to us. Starting this theme, we focus on Luxembourg. At the heart of Europe and crossroads of cultures and languages, this multicultural aspect is reflected in the architecture. To see some of the best examples and learn more about the project and their maker, the OAI, Luxembourg’s Order of Architects and Consulting Engineers, has put together a booklet on contemporary architecture, the It includes 14 routes that crisscross the Grand Duchy, showcasing almost 300 different architecture projects that were completed post 2000. Each route is colour coded and to guide you to the exact sport, addresses and even GPS locations are included. Each project, ranging from family houses to uni-

versity campuses, swimming pools and infrastructure constructions, has a brief and revealing description and includes the project owner, architect, consulting engineer and year of realisation. The buildings that are open to the public and where you can view the interior are also indicated in the booklet. is now in its second edition, after the first edition in 2011 was a great success. New routes and projects have been added, including many newly completed buildings. It also mentions several points of interest you pass along the way.

Designed by architects Jean-Claude Welter and Laury Mersch and written by historian Dr. Robert L. Philippart, the booklet is available in French and Luxembourgish. Photo: Wade Zimmerman

Photo: Phil Night

Pick up a copy of the booklet at tourist information centres around Luxembourg or download it for free online and get ready to discover the Grand Duchy’s top contemporary architecture on foot, by bike, public transport or car.

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Discover Benelux & France | Special Theme | Architecture and Urbanism

Cleverly customised Transforming a worn off old building into a gorgeous newbie, without losing its charming original soul, is the declared specialty of architects Eve-Lynn Beckius, Lena Bollendorff and Nina Friedrich at Luxembourg-based bel.architecture. TEXT: SONJA IRANI | PHOTOS: BEL.ARCHITECTURE

“What fascinates us the most is when a building, which seems expressionless and insignificant at first glance, is transformed into proper and beautiful architecture,” say Lena Bollendorff and Nina Friedrich, explaining the passion for their work in their joint interview. “We enjoy the process of realising a project’s potential. Our usual approach is to reduce the building to its bare essentials, then emphasise its strengths and finally create something pretty and new.”

The all-in solution The portfolio of the team is made up of two Luxembourgians and one German architect and includes a range of various different projects. For starters, they modernise single-family houses and apartment buildings from the 1950s, the 1970s or even recent years. Furthermore, they create modern offices as well as contempo-

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rary single and multiple occupancy homes from scratch that comply with today’s energy-efficiency requirements. Finally, they carry out various functional conversions from the tiniest backyard ruin to the grand Bar Palais right in the capital’s centre. “We are convinced that every type of building project offers interesting insights as well as potential,” continues Bollendorff. “Every project is a matter of heart to us and as such is given our full attention and commitment. Depending on their wishes, we are at our clients’ side all the way through from the first draft to receiving planning and building permission to the coordination on the building site.”

Old gems in new glory Even though they receive a range of offers from all kinds of backgrounds and clients, what seems to appeal to the three artists

the most is the visionary and optimum renovation of an existing building. Always being authentic, keeping things simple and finding a fair solution are the driving forces behind every project by bel.architecture. Thus, when the property creators tackle an old building, they rely on the concept of metamorphosis. What is already there is often kept in terms of its basic layout, but modified to create the convenient features of our modern world. “We usually keep historical elements such as wooden floors, stucco ceilings, period doors or cement tiles,” illustrates Friedrich. “At the same time, we build in contemporary features. An example would be a barn or old workshop that we convert into a flat because the building provides us with unusual proportions, materials, rooms or room heights. Another example is the transformation of dark and

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low small-unit structures from the 1970s into open and light floor plans that meet the demands of today’s family concepts.” This process adds double value to the projects. After the conversion, they offer both contemporary convenience and period charm.

Responsibility taken seriously If there is something the three ladies can’t stand it’s a waste of resources. “We rate the responsibility that every architect has towards the environment very high,” they say. “Therefore, we always recommend to our clients that they use regional materials, for example local wood instead of wood from the tropics, and natural insulating materials instead of synthetics. Energy concepts should be as individual as the houses themselves, but we need to try and handle energy resources consciously at all times.”

So with their impressive portfolio, is there anything the bel.architecture practice still dreams of doing? “Definitely,” say Bollendorff and Friedrich. “The conversion of an old, vacant industry building with lots of brick and huge glass panels, for example a printing plant, a mill or a workshop, would be a lot of fun for us. But this wish is a ‘classic’ among architects. The renovation of a historical farm or a winemaker’s house would be a great challenge, too. Finally, we dream about the realisation of a hotel. This is because we love to travel ourselves.”

each other. In the cities of the south you still find grand buildings from the industrial age made from red brick. In the rest of the country there are countless former distilleries, factories, mills or even more simple buildings such as garages, barns and stables with features so delicate that they become dream objects for many architects. Just come along and see for yourself. Luxembourg is always worth a visit!”

Their working place of Luxembourg, however, offers many beautiful sights and architectonic inspirations too. The ladies agree: “Every region has its own architectural charm. In the Moselle river region, there are beautiful winemaker villages with buildings that are almost interwoven with

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Controlled chaos The Luxembourg-based architects of architecture WeB like to throw a little bit of asymmetry into the architectural mix. The results are stunning as well as practical buildings that really deserve the labels of modern, convenient and environmentally friendly. TEXT: SONJA IRANI | PHOTOS: STEvES TROES FOTODESIGN

“Architecture is a form of art that is bound to functionality,” explains JeanClaude Welter, associate architect at architecture WeB. “This is something we try to take into consideration for each of our projects. We always focus on the buildings’ proportions and thus develop specifically detailed solutions for every project.” Is asymmetry merely an aesthetic feature or does it serve functional purposes, too? “There is a saying that asymmetry is good for the soul,” illustrates Welter. “With carefully measured asymmetric elements in the mix, new and interesting perspectives are

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developing with regards to the proportions of a building. Plus, this design approach also enables us to better react to and enhance the natural environment of a building’s site.”

The all-rounders Ultra-modern asymmetric homes are just one focal point out of architecture WeB’s impressive portfolio of projects. This includes regional council offices, town squares, parks, playgrounds, war memorials, hotels and petrol stations. Furthermore, they have renovated churches and have taken part in competitions such as for a tower in Dubai or a new port area in Germany.

The company also has an intriguing furniture design offering. Examples include a functional bench for the regional trekking trails or even a designer door handle in collaboration with Dorma. In the Luxembourg town of Grevenmacher, where the company is based, the creative team even reconstructed the town’s old fountain, which is now a popular tourist attraction. For every project though, the architects who describe their style as “sculptural”, follow the same procedure. “We don’t rush through a project, but take the time necessary for a good conception,” explains Welter when asked what sets his office apart from others. “Sometimes you

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have to make compromises, for example due to regulations set by the authorities, but the outcome needs to be a building of good quality and one that we ourselves would like to live in. It also needs to make us and our client's progress and develop further. That is our objective at all times.” The little chaos mirrored in the asymmetry of many projects is therefore a very controlled process which architecture WeB carefully thinks through.

A head start on saving energy “On the current architecture market it becomes increasingly important to consider a building’s energy efficiency,” observes Welter. A practical implementation of this concept is the so-called passive house, which is an international standard applied to a building that runs on ultra-low energy supplies and thus significantly reduces its ecological footprint. The concept of a passive house can be applied to both residential and public buildings as well as new or refurbished projects. Having recognised the importance early on, the

creative minds at architecture WeB are nowadays regarded as leading experts in this field. “To stay up to date and expand our knowledge, our team continuously takes part in the newest trainings and courses regarding this subject matter,” says Welter. “We also try to come up with innovative techniques in order to find the right balance between our architectural identity, the wishes of our clients concerning their quality of life and the ideal energetic conditions.” This commitment has paid off: architecture WeB is now allowed to call itself ‘certified passive house designer’, a classification which was awarded to the company by the renowned Passivhausinstitut Darmstadt in Germany.

Looking ahead: the industry’s future Evidence that the architect’s office is on the right track is mirrored in the various awards the company has won such as the Bauhärepräis, Stahlbaupreis or Prix d’excellence Fiabci. “It makes us proud to

know if our project has succeeded both in terms of functionality and contentment by users and external parties,” smiles Welter. The success story continues with the brand new office building that the architects moved into at the beginning of the year. visitors can marvel at the asymmetric masterpiece at open house days. For the architects themselves, their ‘show house’ offers the ideal environment to further refine their innovative ideas for the future. “We notice that computer-aided design becomes more important,” explains Welter. “Another trend is that projects and infrastructure are getting larger in general.” In this respect, the Luxembourg architects also occasionally take an admiring look across the channel: “British architecture makes great use of technical detailed solutions and increasingly implements sustainable architecture by means of the BREEAM concept.”

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Airport Terminal B Luxembourg-Findel

Constructive continuity Luxembourg practice Architectes Paczowski et Fritsch SARL have never tried to follow trends. They believe that, as their style is to produce tailor-made solutions and deliver what’s best for both the client and the context of the site, it will never be out of fashion and they will never be short of work. TEXT: MARTIN PILKINGTON | PHOTOS: ARCHITECTES PACzOWSKI ET FRITSCH SARL, PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANDRéS LEJONA

“In the contemporary architectural scene certain practitioners think it’s necessary to shout to be heard, and to attach themselves to the architectural trend of the moment,” states partner in the practice Mathias Fritsch. “We prefer a calmer, sober approach. Our work is contemporary, but we don’t follow architectural fashions regardless of the context. It’s regrettable that people try to repeat what’s successful for one building in another where circumstances are different.” It’s a philosophy that comes with experience, and in the case of the two founding partners, lengthy experience. When Bohdan Paczowski and Paul Fritsch opened the first incarnation of their practice in Luxembourg in 1989, both had already built successful careers. Paczowski, who qualified in Poland, had been a partner in

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firms in Milan and Paris and had built a considerable reputation, particularly for his expertise on major hospital developments. Paul Fritsch had worked in Brussels before embarking on projects as an independent architect in Luxembourg. Their collaboration was established to handle work on two huge state schemes, an extension to the European Community Courts of Justice and the new airport terminal at LuxembourgFindel.

The airport takes off That airport project was a test of patience as well as architectural skill: “As so often with such projects it was rather political,” explains Mathias: “It took a long time between deciding that the capacity of the airport had to expand and work beginning

in earnest.” Mathias, who spent several years in a Parisian practice, joined his father and Paczowski in 2000, a year before work on the airport was properly underway. In 2003 he became a partner when the firm established a new structure as a limited company (SARL). “What was most interesting about that project was the complexity of the building, as regards to the flow of people within it, questions of security that are linked to that and safety. For us it was important to create something comfortable for the passengers, with good flow, good light, easy access to the planes and rapid access to your baggage,” he says. All very practical concerns, but the building is beautiful too and thanks to soft colours and the effective use of wood it’s also a very habitable one.

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Discover Benelux & France | Special Theme | Architecture and Urbanism Water tower in Brussels

Some transport hubs can be de-humanising, a danger they averted with a very sociable approach: “The almost square layout of the plan, with glass façades on four sides allowed the creation of what is effectively a public space, with good natural light, where people are not hemmed in by low ceilings; an open plaza where you can stroll around.”

Adapting the skyline The practice has a string of such landmark projects behind it, another being the Rocade de Bonnevoie office complex built for the Luxembourg City authorities, a long (120 metre) thin structure very different in form to the airport work, but again with some special challenges: “There is a car park beneath the building, and a railway tunnel, so to curb the vibrations from those sources it was erected on pneumatic dampers.” Smaller but equally fascinating was their development and conversion of what’s is truly a landmark structure, a 1904 watertower in Brussels, into apartments and offices. By replacing concrete with glass and steel its industrial form and soul is retained, while its function has totally changed. It is a stunning addition to the

Forest district’s skyline, or perhaps more correctly, a stunning adaptation.

Steady flexibility Flexibility in their designs paradoxically can be attributed to continuity within the company, not just in having well-respected figures like Paul Fritsch and Bohdan Paczowski at the top, but in the way they organise their resources for projects: “It’s key to the way we work that we establish teams, headed by a senior architect and overseen by the partners, who carry contracts through from start to finish, from concept to construction site, rather than pass it through different hands at different stages,” says Mathias. “It’s important too for the client and to the smooth flow of a project to work in this way, and for the ethos of the practice. With this method people working in the practice become multidisciplinary; they ‘own’ the project and it’s professionally rewarding.”

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Discover Benelux & France | Special Theme | Architecture and Urbanism

Colombelles. Photo: Cyril Sancereau

Everyday architecture with a twist PO&PO is first and foremost a pleasant architectural surprise you stumble upon around the corner. It is simple and yet it communicates a certain poetry through its shape, colours and use of materials. Most importantly, it is architecture that blends effortlessly into its environment and tells a story with its presence. TEXT: BETTINA GUIRKINGER | PHOTO: PO&PO

The two pillars of PO&PO are Bruno Palisson and Jean-Luc Calligaro, a dynamic duo that celebrates 30 years of friendship and over 20 years of professional complementarity. They define themselves as craftsmen, driven by attention to detail and the determination to provide something that is more along the lines of prêtà-porter than haute couture: “We strive to provide solutions to everyone,” says Palisson, “which means that our architectural approach is the same for every project, but adapted to the client’s needs.” What determines the direction of every individual project is its context: “For us, it is important to investigate the story surrounding the environment and the people

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we are going to work with. The idea is to create a structure that comes naturally to life, melts in the picture, and is pleasing to the eye.”

The team regularly comes across projects involving the development and construction of housing spaces across France. “A project we are particularly pleased with is the one located in Colombelles in Normandy, which led us to build 29 of those housing spaces in collaboration with the municipality.”

to have a background in architecture and believed that revitalising some housing complexes would bring life back to Colombelles. As one of the last towns specialised in the steel industry in France, the city went through a difficult period of depopulation from 7,000 to 3,000 inhabitants as the last factories closed and people moved elsewhere. It was around that time that PO&PO was invited to participate in the redesigning of the 29 housing spaces and determine what would make it the housing of tomorrow, and what levels of comfort would be the most suitable.

What attracted PO&PO to this particular assignment was the story behind it: the mayor who got elected in 2001 happened

“We opted for a balance between the ‘collective’ and ‘individual’ type of housing. This translated into unique spaces wear-

An individualised collective

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ing unique colours complemented by common areas.” The result is a building in its simplest expression, where the residents can enjoy their individuality as well as facing three to four directions for a maximisation of light in the housing space. Each of them has access to a terrace, spreading over 12 square meters and up to 21 square meters for the larger ones. Finalised in 2012, the project is a huge success, “which I believe we can attribute to the fact that we followed a very minimalistic line, with the similar raw creativity of a child painting his drawn house in different bright colours. The result is pure, simple and authentic.”

Swimming with an outdoors feeling Another exciting project that has mobilised PO&PO is the construction of a brand new swimming pool in Aix-les-

Bains in the region of Savoie. While in the past swimming pools often lacked adapted lighting and acoustics, in the last 15 years or so architects were brought in to turn things around and make a visit to the swimming pool a true experience. “In this case, we put the accent on three key components: avoiding water reflection, bringing in as much natural light as possible and making vegetation visible so that the customers would have an outdoors feeling as they complete their laps. We wanted them to see the sky and the trees outside,” says Palisson.

Nature at the heart of the creation

Nature is also one of the main sources of inspiration for Palisson and Calligaro: “We are deeply inspired by life; it is around us, everywhere we look. It might sound naive but it is very true for us, the expression of nature is the purest and most powerful form of all. We are constantly inspired by its shapes and its simple lines. It is what drives us to constantly innovate our work and push for new solutions.” Proposing an everyday architecture which aims to provide pleasure and comfort, PO&PO is constantly looking for new challenges and operates where needed.

Beyond the new environmental regulations of 2012 in France, PO&PO goes by the book and works closely with the client to create a structure that is in line with thermic performance regulations, while staying within budget.

Villiers-le-Bâcle Photo: Benoit Fougeirol

Jean-Luc Calligaro and Bruno Palisson. Photo: vincent Colin.


Aix-les-Bains swimming pool

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Leslie Nguyen

Creativity and harmony in interior spaces World-travelled, imaginative and adaptable, Leslie Nguyen established her own architectural firm after spending many years in a large agency working on urbanism projects. Over the last year as her own boss, she successfully delivered challenging interior renovation projects and extensions to bigger structures. TEXT: BETTINA GUIRKINGER | PHOTOS: INLE ARCHITECTE

The component at the heart of every project undertaken by INLE Architecte is the client. “For me it’s important to treat each project as unique and to provide to my clients a safe space where they feel comfortable expressing their ideas to co-create the end result. I will only be satisfied if they are.” A recent successful project involved the renovation of a small 26-square metre apartment. It had to maximise the space, comply with the new environmental regulations in France and include a brand new bathroom, kitchen and a mezzanine as a bedroom. Over the course of seven months, the space was unrecognisable

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and “felt like an entirely different apartment, we were all very pleased with the result!” she says. “Although we had to make tough decisions on which materials to eventually use, we were all thinking along the same lines, which allowed a harmonious and cosy space to come to life.” It also took working with the right people to achieve this: “For the right result, you need the right team, and the network of contacts I have accumulated over the years allows me to pick the best possible contractor to meet a project’s specific needs.” Inspiration plays a big part too. Having worked in Indonesia in the reconstruction process of Sumatra after the tsunami of 2004 has

provided Leslie with new perspectives on how to use locally available materials such as wood and bamboo in the construction of strong and sustainable structures. Over the next couple of months, INLE Architecte will be focusing on building extensions to existing Parisian structures of 150 and 40 square metres respectively, one in Antony and the other in Malakoff. Eager to expand the firm’s portfolio and location sites, Leslie dreams to get international assignments and bring creative solutions to new challenges.

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Discover Benelux & France | Special Theme | Architecture and Urbanism

Where before what For Parisian architects inSpace International, ecological considerations are vital. But their environmental approach is about much more than energy, for them every site’s individual context informs what’s to be built there. TEXT: MARTIN PILKINGTON | PHOTOS: INSPACE INTERNATIONAL

When founding partners Marta Mendonça and Gonzalo Galindo joined forces in 2003 they shared an architectural philosophy that still drives the practice: “Every project starts with understanding the site; its physical surroundings micro and macro; cultural and social contexts. Every site is unique, marked by innumerable differences,” explains Dr Mendonça. Three years after inSpace was founded Mendonça won a prestigious Culture Ministry and French Architectural Institute prize for young architects. Their expanded team now handles a stream of commissions. Evidently the philosophy works. “Our work at Carrières-sous-Poissy on a scheme for 62 social housing apartments illustrates the approach,” she says. “Understanding the area around the site and what we then designed for it has created

a project that reconciles diverse elements in the surrounding landscape. The layout and scale of new structures provides a comfortable transition between small individual houses across the street at one side, where we’ve reinterpreted this typology by including two-storey houses with wooden façades which stand in a common platform with four- and fivestorey blocks facing the other side of the site, where taller collective-housing buildings stand. The space thus achieves harmony and coherence.” Design work for inSpace starts with urban and lifestyle research and detailed dialogues with all stakeholders. Site conditions and client needs then translate into outline plans which, via constant questioning, evolve into a project: the process means a building doesn’t just fit in, but maximises opportunities.

At Sintra in Portugal, inSpace is at the budgeting stage for a stunning hotel complex on a hill surrounded by majestic countryside. Green roofs and wooden and glass façades meld built and natural elements. “We’ve stepped the different structures down the slope simultaneously opening views, enhancing privacy and eliminating shade other than from trees,” she explains. Energy and environmental questions are constant preoccupations for inSpace, such skilful orientation of façades, air circulation and material selection are three of their key energy reduction techniques. Clients are rewarded with elegant and effective buildings; architects with engrossing work: “We don’t produce ‘units’, we participate over time in the revision of the built environment,” she concludes.

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Discover Benelux & France | Special Theme | Architecture and Urbanism

Architecture: a tale of two cities Founded in 2011 in France, aArchipel Architects aims to provide innovative and creative solutions in architecture, interior design, historical building restoration and construction management from its two offices located in Paris and Istanbul. TEXT: BETTINA GUIRKINGER | PHOTOS: AARCHIPEL

Regardless of the scale of each project, the multi-disciplinary team at aArchipel primarily values the needs and desires of its clients. “Once our clients have told us what they envision for a particular project, we bring in our expertise and architectural interpretation to create something unique. Architecture is above all an art of dialogue and communication,” says founder Baha ikman. Growing up in a family of designers and architects, ikman felt attracted to aesthetics and design since a very young age, drawing cars, boats and football stadiums on his school textbooks. “I never thought of studying anything else than architecture, for me it is a door to the world that allows you to be creative in any area that requires a certain aesthetic.” With a strong track record and a grand vision, founding aArchipel Architects was a

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dream come true: “To me architecture is the most noble of arts, characterised by a constant effort to bring together utility and beauty while integrating shapes, spaces and structures.” Having closely collaborated with U ur Can Erol, it soon became evident the two would work together, given their shared vision and passion for their art. “We are very complementary and enjoy running our two offices in Paris and Istanbul. It is exciting for us to spend our time between those two very different and yet culturally and historically linked cities. They are a constant source of inspiration,” explains ikman. The team is currently working on the transformation of a boat that once belonged to Istanbul’s municipality, with the idea to turn it into a hotel-restaurant-jazz bar. While this type of boat used to transport passengers from one riverbank to the other 30 years

ago, its new owner has the ambition to turn it into something entirely different. “Having a jazz bar, lounge bar, five luxury suites and a panoramic restaurant confined within 55 meters in length is not an easy task but we’ve succeeded in re-organising the space to maximise comfort and harmony and turn the boat into a symbol of the city.” Specialists in architecture, interior design and furniture design, aArchipel bridges orient and occident with sophistication and imagination.

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Discover Benelux & France | Special Theme | All-round Design and Styling Solutions

From forlorn to dream location Imagine owning an agency, that specialised in residential architecture and interior, and seeing a growing demand for homelike designed retail properties. Who would not use their years of experience to be a breath of fresh air in retail architecture and design? TEXT: BERTHE vAN DEN HURK | PHOTOS: CSAR

This is exactly what CSAR did, using their extensive residential design experience to create new and refreshing concepts for retail properties. “We come up with new styles and ideas,” says Thijs de Ruiter, owner of CSAR. “We provide the necessary refreshment and are not afraid of letting go of retail concepts.”

powerful and functional and have refined details. CSAR also developed ‘de Bouwbundel’ (the building bundle), to clarify the private construction processes; it offers a clear picture of the realisation of the project. With a strong team and a steady network of professionals, CSAR can take care of the whole project.

CSAR was founded in 2003 and stands for ‘Creative Studio Architecture and Realisation’. It is an architectural firm that specialises in construction and renovation projects on the private market. In addition to architectural design, CSAR focuses on interior design and designs closets, stairways and other types of furniture. Their designs are

Showing the potential

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De Ruiter: “Our biggest strength is reallocating buildings. We are located in Amsterdam, and especially in a city like this, we have to be very creative with the limited space we have. We are able to transform a seemingly hopeless property into the house of your dreams.”

A great example for an exceptional transformation is the old stairwell of a former office. CSAR made it into a luxurious fivebedroom home. A while ago De Ruiter appeared on the Dutch television show Huizenjacht (House Hunting) to advise people on how to create their dream house within a budget. De Ruiter: “I also wanted to show the viewers the potential in seemingly hopeless locations and properties. We see what others cannot see or do not know, and therefore we are able to show a surprising and novel concept.” According to De Ruiter, the best moment to get in a project is right after the housing or retail wishes arise. This means even be-

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De Ruiter: “The changing demands on the retail market and our experience, created the most logical next step for us. We are flexible and not holding on to old retail concepts. We think out of the box on multiple levels. What is impossible for another person is for us the greatest creative puzzle.”

fore a property has been bought. Not only to give a realistic vision of the possibilities within budget and laws, but also for the creative process. De Ruiter: “Of course it is very important to get to know the client. For example, people have daily routines, and our designs can simplify things or make them more comfortable, without forcing changes in daily routines. The more knowledge we have about the client, the more satisfying the end result will be.” After they get to know the wishes and demands, CSAR creates 3D-sketches to optimise visualisation for the client. During the entire project, contact with the client is very important. De Ruiter: “Things change during the process, wishes change and problems arise. We are the ones who must lead those elements in the right direction. Regular contact with everyone who is involved in the process is crucial.”

CSAR has gained over the last 12 years. They are able to provide creative solutions for any kind of object or project, and are a growing force in retail design. With this innovative view CSAR breaks through a situation and is able to transform a property in a surprising way. In all their designs CSAR reuses materials and components, so there are always elements of the history present in the designs. CSAR’s great experience in residential architecture and interior and the rapidly changing demands within retail design, makes them the best solution for any design request.

Above: The former office stairwell used to have a seven by seven metre high staircase. Now it is transformed into a luxurious home.

Homelike retail design Ever since the recession, people are looking for hominess and sociability. This also appears in the demand for retail design and décor. De Ruiter: “Pure and high quality materials and attention for detail are more important than ever. Nowadays people want a homelike design at stores. Shopping is becoming more and more an experience, rather than a necessary activity.” This demand for homelike retail design obviously fits perfectly with the experience

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Discover Benelux & France | Special Theme | All-round Design and Styling Solutions

Living spaces The projects Luxembourg-based interior architect Laurent Plétinckx undertakes are incredibly complex and the works he delivers are elegantly simple. TEXT: MARTIN PILKINGTON | PHOTOS: COURTESY OF LAURENT PLéTINCKX

Laurent Plétinckx ran his interior architecture business in Brussels for more than a decade before transplanting it to Luxembourg in 1999: “I’ve always loved this part of the Ardennes, and wanted to get back to a life that was better integrated with the natural world,” he explains. The decision was easy, the planning, administrative formalities and logistics were complicated, but then mastering complexity is at the heart of his professional life. “My role involves working closely with clients from the planning stage to delivery, and liaising with the project manager with and for whom I put together all the necessary plans, costings and quotations. I work with architects where, for example,

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changes in a building’s fabric are required, and with all of the tradesmen and craftsmen, who in Luxembourg tend to be of the highest standard, and when furniture custom-made to my designs is needed, with external companies. I have to cover the technical side of things not just the aesthetic, like heating, sanitation and energy conservation.”

Clean living “My designs lean towards a refined style, with clean lines and a harmony between materials, colours and lighting,” he says. “Light, natural or artificial, for me is hugely important, it’s of the essence in any project.” After qualifying at Brussels’ école Supérieure des Beaux-Arts his ca-

reer began with a period working for a lighting manufacturer, and ever since he has harnessed developments in that field. “The way LED technology has evolved has allowed me to harness colour temperatures in my work,” he says. “But I create a project for the client, not as some personal work of art. From the first day to the last I’m totally engaged in it to ensure the needs and wishes of the client are understood and respected.”

Lofty aspirations As an illustration of that commitment, he outlines a recent commission in Brussels for a very high-end apartment: “That project lasted in all a year, and involved between 30 and 40 meetings with the clients, from the

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presentation of the original design and the development of that with them, through the selection of materials that necessitated visits with them to certain suppliers, and regular discussions on progress and details.” The 300 square metres of interior space was gutted and totally remodelled to meet the needs of a modern family, ensuring the three bedrooms enjoyed privacy while the living zone maximised contact. “We created a totally open area that united the kitchen, dining room and living room in a very contemporary ‘loft’ style,” he adds. A significant part of that particular project was also the entertainment and IT provision, including a home cinema: “In each room you can listen to music separately, or watch the television channel of your choice, with a central hard disc on which all the clients’ DvDs and CDs and downloads were loaded, making them available to the kitchen, bedroom, living room... as and when required.” To enable this Laurent designed in 20 kilometres of hidden cabling. Technology is equally vital in how Laurent operates, with 3D modelling and anima-

tions that bring ideas and presentations to life. Many of his commissions are for business organisations with past projects including a chain of 30 watch shops across Europe, an office-furniture showroom, banks and hi-fi stores. Crisp presentations are necessary for such clients where time is at a premium, few more so than the CEO of one of the world’s leading industrial companies whose Luxembourg office Laurent recently remodelled.

tremely busy industrialist. After the initial presentation and discussion he basically gave me carte blanche to do what I wanted; the second meeting was to show him some sample materials; and the last to present the finished article to him, when he thanked me for my work. It’s extremely flattering to be given that level of trust,” Laurent concludes.

Major client, major responsibility What is now this CEO’s office was created for the founder of the Luxembourg company in the 1920s, in need of complete refurbishment after a global group acquired that business. The style for the new version incorporated elements from that era like mouldings and furniture made to the original blueprints unearthed by Laurent, and works of art selected by him to be in keeping. It also had to accommodate the IT and communication needs of the leader of a global enterprise. Marrying those two aspects was no easy task but one that evidently went very well: “I only had three meetings with this ex-

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Discover Benelux & France | Special Theme | Sustainable Design


Social innovation against climate change change The 16th edition of the National Sustainability Conference is due to take place on 3 November, shortly before the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. The subject of this annual and biggest sustainability conference in the Netherlands is ‘social innovation against climate change’. International engineering and project management consultancy Royal HaskoningDHV is the initiator and organiser of this conference. TEXT & PHOTOS: NATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY CONFERENCE

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Discover Benelux & France | Special Theme | Sustainable Design

Research conducted by the Erasmus University in Rotterdam shows that technology is contributing a mere 25 per cent towards the success of innovations. Social innovation, a generic name for new ways of working that focus on innovative solutions, is responsible for the remaining 75 per cent. By using the combined forces of technical and non-technical fields of expertise and not always going for the obvious choices, we can make a difference. At the end of last year, secretary general of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, announced that 2015 ‘will be the year of sustainability’ (among other things) because of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in December. The outcome of the negotiations cannot be predicted, nor is it clear what any new climate change agreement might look like. Yet the urgency to work on climate change on a grand scale, using decisive action, remains significant. We cannot and may not pass on the burden to future generations. Institutions and broad sections of society are increasingly taking on their responsibilities and getting to work themselves. The 2014 edition of the conference showed that revolutionary technologies that could precipitate breakthroughs are already available or will be very soon, for instance, for storing energy. But more is required: a new economy in which social innovation reaches full fruition. There will be prominent speakers at the conference to inspire the participants. In the numerous sessions, there will be interaction between participants from interest groups, organisations and government so that the necessary acceleration can be achieved for tackling climate change. Conference participants will be rolling up their sleeves and given the instruments they need to make a difference. To conclude the conference, the participants will formulate a joint final declaration addressed to the leaders in Paris. Royal HaskoningDHv is working actively on the global challenges confronting its clients. Climate change is one of the biggest issues to the urban, transport, water and industrial sectors.

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Discover Benelux & France | Special Theme | Sustainable Design

A bedroom with character With the distinctive wooden furniture by Dutch brand Livengo, you can find the perfect bed that is both unique, functional and comfortable. No need to settle for something plain, get something stylish and authentic in your bedroom with Livengo. TEXT: MYRIAM GWYNNED DIJCK | PHOTOS: LIvENGO

All Livengo products are created from old scaffolding wood, giving the designs a rough and distinctive look. Company cofounder Ralph Mommers says: "The wooden planks were all used in the construction industry as scaffolding walkways for the builders. You can see this in the look of our products, they are sturdy, robust and full of character.” Before the planks are used, the team at the Livengo workshop first scrapes them clean and carefully sands them down to create a smooth surface. “Apart from the unique look of the wood, the other great thing about using old scaffolding wood is that we

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give the material a second life. It is a great way of recycling,” he says. The company specialises in complete bedroom packages, comprising of beds, mattresses, pillows, bedside tables and wardrobes. Their designs range from sleek, minimalist designs such as the ‘Modern’ range, or more elegant and country like, such as the bed with fruit crates. Mommers adds: “We can take care of the full bedroom furnishings and we always assemble the items ourselves upon delivery.” Livengo has their own brand of mattresses produced in the Netherlands, which come

with a five year warranty. Because the company has the production chain in their own hands, they can deliver a custom made mattress in any size within two weeks. “We offer in-depth advice to make sure people get a mattress that suits them, adjusted to posture, sleeping habits and if you’re quickly warm or cold. Customers are allowed to test our mattresses for 60 days without having to commit to anything,” he says. Mommers founded the business three years ago with his business partner Hugo Cardinaal. He recalls: “It was almost by accident. My partner and I were looking for

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Discover Benelux & France | Special Theme | Sustainable Design

a bed, but we couldn’t really find anything we liked. Hugo had some old scaffolding wood in his garage and he made this wonderful bed out of it. It was something that wasn’t available anywhere.” Mommers realised he wouldn’t be the only one looking for a unique bed, and this became the start of Livengo. Mommers, specialising in sales, and Cardinaal who had just finished a course in furniture design turned out to be the perfect combination for the company. “Our success was quite unexpected, but now we deliver beds throughout the Netherlands and Belgium and have a team of ten staff.” Thanks to their distinctive designs and varied collection, their beds are much soughtafter by young and old. Mommers says: “We attract people across the board, from students and young couples looking for a

sleek bed design but also need storage, to older people who want an elegant bed that is slightly higher.” One of Livengo’s most popular beds is the design with small fruit crates for storage. The crates come from Germany and they were used in the orchards for fruit picking. “This is again a great way to give wood a second life, and the design is really lovely. It’s got real character and also offers plenty of storage,” he concludes. Livengo just re-launched its website, with a greatly expanded bedroom collection including new designs. Livengo can provide full bedroom solutions from beds and mattresses to pillows, bedside tables and wardrobes.

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Discover Benelux & France | Special Theme | Sustainable Design

Basics reinvented Beautiful, delicately soft and ecologically basic clothing. Who wouldn’t love to wear that? Saint Basics designs high quality tops and bottoms for modern men and women living a conscious life. TEXT: JANINE STERENBORG | PHOTOS: SAINT BASICS

Saint Basics sleek, stylish designs are unique: all items are well thought out, simple, yet innovative and eco-friendly. It is no wonder Saint Basics was labelled ‘Dutch Design’ last year. Its designs reflect the typical Dutch mentality of seeing beauty in simplicity, drawing strength from setbacks and doing something special with a down to earth approach. Founder Peter van Akkeren says: “We believe that durability is in the small things you do every day. Like putting on your underwear.” Saint Basics’ clothes are not just beautiful. The brand distinguishes itself further by focussing on the perfect fit. van Akkeren: “We changed the location of the seams, for more comfort. A common fashion annoyance is the itchy label with the washing instructions stinging into your back. In-

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stead, we print the instructions on the inside of the clothing.” And who has not experienced a shirt creeping out of their pants? Saint Basics’ solution is simple but effective. van Akkeren: “Our shirts are extra-long, so your back will be covered, no matter which move you make.” van Akkeren started Saint Basics in 2010. After working for commercial companies, he wanted to focus on a brand he believed in. With a penchant for change and improvising, he decided to focus on ecological fashion basics. “I came up with the idea for Saint Basics when I realised there were no good looking, high quality, sustainable basics available on the market yet. Many clothes were produced in sweatshops. If they were ecological, they weren’t stylish. I chose to make a differ-

ence and create a beautiful high-end fashion product that is produced free from child labour as well as pesticides and other chemicals. And it feels and looks much better than the leading brands’ basics.” This way of working landed the products of Saint Basics a GOTS-certification, a worldwide acknowledged certificate for organic and fair produced textile. The cotton Saint Basics uses comes from South West Turkey. van Akkeren explains: “The cotton grows next to the Aegean sea. Due to the local climate, the cotton contains long fibres, an important quality which is essential for our soft fabrics.” The final product is created in Europe as well: by small businesses in Portugal. Designs are made by Dutch and German artists.

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Discover Benelux & France | Special Theme | Sustainable Design

All of this combined led Saint Basics to be ranked the ‘most eco-friendly fashion brand of the Netherlands’, according to the independent website Rank a Brand. The current collection consists of black and white products only. “For years we’ve been proud of our black and white collection. We still are. But our customers collectively asked for coloured products,” says van Akkeren. The line is currently in development, but a first impression is already available on the website. “The colours we chose are all basic, natural and have a mature yet happy appearance.” The happy plain coloured basics will be available in the fall of this year and “at the same time, we’ll add patterns.” Bright colours will never have a place in the Saint Basics collection says van Akkeren: “It doesn’t fit our brand. And one of the things we found out during motivation based market research, is that men chose to wear colourful underwear when going out, to impress the ladies. But in the

same questionnaire, women stated they think it’s childish, and prefer a more mature colour,” he laughs. Not just the colour will change, the textile for the new basics will be different as well. van Akkeren: “We’ll use Tencel, the worlds’ most innovative eco-material currently available.” Made from beechwood, you wouldn’t expect it to be soft. “But it really is!” says van Akkeren, “and there’s another good thing about this material: it doesn’t induce a sweaty smell.” Saint Basics started a crowdfunding campaign to fund this new line. This enabled customers to invest in the brand and receive ten per cent equity. “Within less than 12 days, our new collection was funded. It is great to see that our customers are willing to invest in our products, before it is even on the market.” And the price tag will surprise you: Saint Basics is high end fashion for a fair price.

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Discover Benelux & France | Special Theme | Sustainable Design

From conveyor belt to briefcase They were first used to transport goods, and now they are transformed into quality briefcases: conveyor belts. Dutch design company Kazmok gives the belts a new purpose by turning them into stylish bags and accessories. TEXT: MYRIAM GWYNNED DIJCK | PHOTOS: KAzMOK

“Because we work with used materials, you get bags with distinctive textures, streaks and lines. This makes each bag unique,” says industrial designer and company founder Dinand Stufkens. The bags are made from conveyor belts previously used in the agricultural, transport and food industry such as at airports, postal services, in distribution centres and in the recycling industry. The Kazmok collection comprises of three briefcase designs, a shopper bag, belts and accessories, each available in different colour schemes. “Especially the Associate laptop bag is one of our bestsellers, it’s sporty but classy and has plenty of compartments and storage space. It’s the perfect briefcase for people who want to look professional and presentable,” he says.

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Stufkens founded the company in 2011, after he completed his search for the perfect material. “I’ve always designed bags and I was looking for a new and sustainable source for the material. This lead me to conveyor belts, they are strong and sturdy and have an attractive, industrial look.” Conveyors belts are widely used for transporting goods and with them Stufkens can create bags in a range of colours. “We thoroughly clean the belts but we don’t colour them. The black belts for general use get wonderful shades of grey, the agricultural industry uses green belts and in food production you see white and blue belts, there is quite a lot of variety.” First and foremost Kazmok specialises in making beautiful and functional bags, but

the sustainability aspect is also something Stufkens values. “Conveyor belts are made for one function, so their life cycle is relatively short. I realised that the companies who use conveyor belts are also quite glad I can give the material a second life, it’s a waste to throw it away. Being sustainable is important but I see it as something inherent and obvious, not necessarily as something special.” All Kazmok briefcases and products are available on the webshop and a purchase includes free shipping to the Netherlands within three days. Stufkens is currently looking at expanding to other countries in Europe and is planning to launch a new design later this year.

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Discover Benelux & France | Special Theme | Sustainable Design

Changing cycling conventions TEXT: MYRIAM GWYNNED DIJCK | PHOTO: BEIXO

Since the chain-driven bicycle replaced the penny-farthings in the 1880s, basic bicycle design has hardly evolved. Dutch brand beixo has taken on the task to rethink the bike by introducing chainless cycling, with much success. With beixo’s alternative driving methods, such as the shaft drive system, the old, greasy and maintenance-heavy chain becomes obsolete. Owner of beixo, Ad Tummers, explains: “The shaft drive concept is not new, but with modern production technologies we can now incorporate multiple gears. The result is a clean, durable, safe and comfortable bike that has beautiful lines.” Specialising in folding and electrical bikes, beixo also produces city and touring bikes. “It is our ambition to make the perfect design, so each model starts

from scratch. We always look for the optimal driving system, so for example in the case of our smallest and lightest folding bike, the X-Town, this lead us to a belt drive,” he says. While customers are often sceptical at first, Tummers says they quickly change their mind after a test ride. He concludes: “We make sure that the riding experience is identical to a chain drive. A beixo bike piques people’s curiosity so it is a great way to make contact. I guess that’s the only downside, you can’t be afraid to talk to people!” TOP: The 7-speed Compact combines the flexibility of a folding bike with the comfort and riding qualities of a normal bike, also available as an electrical model. BOTTOM: The lightweight X-Town folding bike is perfect for urban commuters. It is easy to fold and incorporates a clean belt drive.


Spiked Cycles are super comfortable, look gorgeous and are fast. It is these three qualities that regular e-bikes invariably lack. It’s the result of design from scratch, an eye for style and for the wishes of users. “We aim to make the bike a serious replacement for the car on short distances,” explains co-founder Leon van Spijk. “The downsides of taking your bike to work are sweating and discomfort when you ride for more than a few kilometers.” With a Spiked Cycle, this is no longer an issue. “You can easily reach a speed of twenty kilometers an hour within just a few seconds, so there is no sweat involved. And the saddle is of the highest quality available. It has seat post suspension, which absorbs shocks when you hit a bump in the road. So you won’t bounce off your saddle like on a regular bike. Comfort is key.”

The smartly built frame, well balanced weight and outstanding looks are other things clients love about Spiked Cycles. van Spijk: “We part with the rollator-like image of e-bikes by adding colour. Our designs speak to the users and on our website you can even make your own custom bike. Different colours are available, not just for the frame, but also for the wheels and optional carriers.” Spiked Cycles offer a few basic designs, but you can adjust them to your needs and create your optimised, personalised high quality e-bike.

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Discover Benelux & France | Business | Intro 76 Columns and Business Calendar Photo: Second Home Expo

74 Entrepreneurs on the Rise. Photo: ITMG

71 Franchise Formulas. Photo: Doppio Espresso



This month we have an extra-long, compelling business section packed with inspiring company profiles, enlightening opinion pieces and a calendar full of events for June. Starting the business section is the Mini Theme – Real Estate Development, focussing on the dynamic Luxembourg market. Introducing the special feature is an exclusive interview with Félicie Weycker, president of Fonds Belval, which is turning a large, former industrial site into a thriving centre for creativity and science.

68 Law, transport and logistics. Photo: Martin Avocats

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We continue the business section with Legal Transformation, which focuses on the law, logistics and transport. Next, we have several revealing company profiles, starting with Franchise Formulas, highlighting the interesting opportunities for franchisees and ending with two innovative businesses in Entrepreneurs on the Rise.

To close the section, our regular business columnists share their thoughts on relatable issues. This time, they question the benefits of the practice of ‘leaning in’ and discuss how ‘insider blindness’ can lead to important messages being lost to the main receiver.

60 Real Estate Development. Photo: Fonds Belval

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Discover Benelux & France | Mini Theme | Real Estate Development

The bright future of real estate in Luxembourg Investing in real estate in Luxembourg is booming business. With levels of investments increasing rapidly year on year, the country’s corporate property market is attracting more and more international attention. Real estate agency INOWAI are experts in the field of commercial (as well as residential) property services. They will tell us all about Luxembourg’s real estate success. TEXT & PHOTOS: INOWAI

The number of investments carried out last year has exceeded a billion euros. This is the highest level since 2007. It marks a progression of 40 per cent compared to 2013 and confirms the strength of the corporate property market of the Grand Duchy. The 427 million euros invested, the first quarter of 2015 represents nearly 40 per cent of the overall investment realised in 2014. 2014 has confirmed and magnified a shift from 2013 by Luxembourg’s corporate property market. Between 2008 and 2012, the total amount of annual investments had stubbornly remained beneath the 500 million euro barrier and the crisis had incited investors to act with prudence. In 2013, the first signs of a solid shift were

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seen by a very significant progression in the volume of investments (53 per cent up compared with 2012). This result was seen as even more encouraging as it was the fruit of international investors, notably Belgians, French and Germans. In 2014, the recovery was felt in a beautiful way and the volume of investments reached 1.08 billion euros, displaying an increase of more than 40 per cent compared with 2013. INOWAI took an active part in this result, remaining the number one in the market with more than a 30 per cent share. Several operations were carried out last year, such as the sale of the Kons gallery at AXA Belgium. Situated opposite Lux-

embourg station, this 150 million euro project covers 20,500 square metres, of which 14,600 are offices, 2,400 is commercial space and 3,500 is housing. ING will move to this location, its Luxembourg headquarters, at the end of construction in 2016. The AXA buyer was attracted to the project’s unique location and its technical characteristics which will enable him to obtain a ‘very good’ BREEAM sustainability certification level. The renovation project and the extension of the old ING headquarters is equally exemplary for more than one reason. The operation includes an investment of more than 70 million euros. Situated on Route d’Esch, in the heart of the Cloche d’Or district, it has attracted the long term interest

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Discover Benelux & France | Mini Theme | Real Estate Development

a global economic context which remains uncertain and risky, Luxembourg is a sound investment. Investors which offer arbitration in their real estate portfolios quickly find buyers for their released products. The fluidity of the market is a sign of maturity and good health.

of investors and is zoned for full development. To purchase this property, ‘Ethias‘ has associated with two other insurers, the Luxembourg Foyer and the Belgian L’intégrale. After renovation, the property will offer more than 10,000 square metres of office space, providing the latest technological advances and an environmental certification. It will be rented out to the BDO auditing firm for a period of 12 years.

New investors The investment operations concluded in 2014 showed the interest of investors for the Grand Duchy. As proof, the projects for all the big auditing firms have been carried out or are in the process of completion. In

At the same time, the flux of new projects bears witness to continuing growth which attracts new arrivals, such as the American firm, Blackstone, REAL I.S. or CNP Assurances. This movement is encouraging as it reflects the economic dynamism of the Grand Duchy.

emblematic project comprising shops, offices, and housing. It will be the new front door of the upper city of Luxembourg. Driven by this good start, the amount of investments for 2015 will again exceed one billion euros. The demand for office spaces remains high and the new programmes that are being implemented have been long-awaited. The volume of deliveries should be 110,000 square metres, bringing the stock to over 3.7 million square metres.

Apart from international Belgian, German, French and American institutional investors, Luxembourg also attracts private investors, notably through the Family Office, which represents 16 per cent of investments carried out. The flourishing economic context comes out in favour of investment. During the first quarter of 2015, four operations were registered and represented a volume of 427 million euros. The main transaction is the selling of the Royal Hamilius, a 36,000 square metre

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Discover Benelux & France | Mini Theme | Real Estate Development

Belval before the renovation works.

Innovation in Luxembourg’s industrial wasteland For decades, Belval was a thriving industrial quarter in the south west of Luxembourg City. The large steelworks long overshadowed the surrounding area, but in the late 1990s industry moved out and left behind a large, abandoned brownfield site. Now Fonds Belval is giving the area new life by renovating the site. The organisation runs the transformation of the area on behalf of the Luxembourg government to make West-Belval thrive again. We spoke to Félicie Weycker, president of Fonds Belval, to tell us more. TEXT: MYRIAM GWYNNED DIJCK | PHOTOS: FONDS BELvAL

Fonds Belval is turning the site into a cultural and scientific hub which will include a new campus for the University of Luxembourg. Could you explain what is so innovative about the project? The City of Science is an ambitious project considering its size, it includes approximately 20 buildings intended primarily for the University of Luxembourg as well as public research centres and space for start-ups and socio-cultural purposes. The first building of Fonds Belval, the centre for amplified music Rockhal, was completed in

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2005 but the official opening of the City of Science will take place in September coinciding the start of Belval’s first academic year. The City of Science is meant to become one of the most important centres for scientific research and innovation of the Grand Duchy. It will distinguish itself through its architectural and urban qualities. It is a novel ensemble born from a mix of industrial remains and contemporary architecture and attracts visitors from Luxembourg and beyond. Its landmark building is the House of Knowledge, the main

university building with an 84-metre high tower set on a 180-metre long bar, a feat of architecture and engineering. Belval has a strong industrial heritage, could you tell us more about the site and why it was abandoned? The industrial history of Belval dates back to the 20th century, when a German company built a factory with blast furnaces, a steelworks and several rolling mills. The transition to the electric steelmaking put an end to the production of cast iron in Belval

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in 1997. After the sale of one blast furnace to China, two of them remained on site and became ‘monuments in the city’. The main challenge was to identify a viable concept integrating the blast furnaces in this new neighbourhood for the City of Science. One blast furnace would be preserved to create an impressive landmark, the other was dismantled to its primary structure. Through minimalist architectural interventions and landscaping with large water basins, the industrial remains took on a new quality and provide a great location for organising various events. For the redevelopment the decision was made to keep the architecture in the area largely intact and reuse the original buildings, why was this important? These industrial monuments characterise the site of Belval and grant it its special atmosphere. Obviously, the gigantic infrastructures are fascinating. The blast furnaces have become a must-see on the cultural and tourist maps. A permanent exhibition at Massenoire (the Black Mass building) conjures up the urban and historic development of the South region. Other industrial buildings also found a new use: the old changing rooms were transformed into a business incubator and the iron ore loading facility will become the university library. The building’s sublime architecture and its public aim will make it a showcase of the university. What were some of the greatest challenges facing the redevelopment of the area and how did you overcome these?

Felicie Weycker - President of Fonds Belval

Antoinette Lorang - Project owner City of Science at Belval

which was sent to China. Everything had to be removed to create a stable foundation for the new building.

Conservation of the industrial heritage in a city neighbourhood was extremely difficult to design and to implement. The project required long research and planning work with international architects and city and landscape planners.

What are the future plans for Fonds Belval that people in Luxembourg and abroad can look forward to?

Also servicing the site has been a real challenge and took considerable time. The land was not ready to build and significant sanitation works had to be done. For example, the ground where the House of Knowledge now stands was filled with infrastructures connected to blast furnace C

Besides the construction of new buildings, in the future, Fonds Belval will provide services of management, maintenance and operation of the existing buildings. Addressing the public at large, the cultural side will play a bigger part in the future, including the promotion of industrial

culture, such as the successful public opening of the blast furnace with a viewing platform at 40 metres. Furthermore, we will lead the Public Art Experience, an artist residency project starting September this year and taking place over the next ten years in Belval. And finally, promoting urban culture, thanks to the architectural and urban concept developed by Fonds Belval for the Terrace of the Blast Furnaces, we now have some wonderful spaces at our disposal: the square of the gardens, the square of the blast Furnaces, the square of the university, to mention just a few.

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Discover Benelux & France | Mini Theme | Real Estate Development

Green and sustainable investment For over 15 years Arizona Investissements has put sustainability and respect for the environment at its core. Providing innovative solutions and creative strategies, the company owns, develops, operates and manages mainly commercial real estate such as retail spaces, offices, hotels as well as residential buildings. TEXT: BETTINA GUIRKINGER | PHOTOS: ARIzONA INvESTISSEMENTS

Selecting a new development project requires thorough examination and extensive research. But Arizona Investissements has gathered the perfect team to deliver the job. Franck Bem, current CEO says: “We only work with the most qualified people that can manage these processes to perfection, from architects to engineers. We make sure the end result is the best it can be, according to expectations and within a framework of regulations and environmental standards.” In line with its commitment to sustainability, all projects are delivered to strict environmental quality standards, such as the HQE (High Environmental Quality) certificate in France and the international

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BREEAM qualification. “These are the gold standards in assessing environmental quality,” explains Bem. “We are collectively dependent on the environment and the health and availability of our natural resources. As such, we use our size, capability and influence to promote sustainable development, environmentally conscious corporate practices and green living.”

Switzerland, Poland has recently become an important focus country. He says: “The Polish market is showing tremendous potential for development in the real estate arena, which is why we chose it as our new destination. At the same time, we continue to monitor the international market to establish where our next move could take place.”

Development opportunities

To date, the group has a vast portfolio consisting of over 1,000,000 square feet of real estate in Europe, 45 independent subsidiaries and over 500,000 square feet in current development. Arizona Investissements are constantly looking for new opportunities and to learn more, as Bem comments: “We recently participated in a

Established in France in 1999, Arizona Investissements relocated its headquarters to Luxembourg in 2013. This enabled the company to enter Luxembourg’s dynamic development market and step into the international real estate industry. With many projects in the Benelux, France and

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Arizona Green Energy The company strives to be ahead of regulations and to encourage others to work towards being more respectful of the environment. It is a challenge but also a leading ambition in the firm which led them to create a sister-company Arizona Green Energy.

competition to develop a project in the Kirchberg area in Luxembourg combining commercial, retail and residential real estate. We made it to the final three, and although we didn’t win, we saw this as a fantastic learning experience and through working in a team, it was also a great way to share our knowledge.” When asked what makes the group stand out in their field, Bem replies: “I would say it is our know-how, which we strive to duplicate wherever we go next. For us it is important to acquire value-added real estate opportunities where we can show and do our best.”

Managing green living For the majority, Arizona Investissements prefers to remain owners and managers of the assets: “When we undertake works in a building, we don’t just focus on achieving a more modern-day look, we also strive to bring it in line with the newest environmental norms. Remaining the owners allows us keep an eye on the reduction of energy consumption and waste.” He continues: “We rent under ‘green leases’ which means the new tenants are encouraged to

remain energy-savvy, installing LED lights for instance.” While some buildings end up being sold to external parties, even then Bem is keen to sell on similar ‘green leases’. He adds: “This way we make sure the sustainability standards are maintained.”

“It specialises in managing solar panels on the roofs of our buildings in France, generating electricity to sell to providers. We have plans to expand this scheme to other countries where Arizona Investissements operates,” Bem explains. It began to integrate photovoltaic power systems in 2009 and started their own solar energy production in 2011.

Innovation and new technologies Arizona Investissements uses renewable resources, focusing on the most efficient thermic isolation technologies and making the best use of the solar panels on their buildings. “It is important for us to stay at the top of the game when it comes to innovation in sustainable construction by capitalising on new technologies,” says Bem. The company is also looking into creating their own eco-friendly label as a seal of their commitment to a green future. With environmental responsibility a primary objective, the road ahead is clear for Arizona Investissements: certify the spaces according to strict environmental norms, reduce energy consumption and make each project a long-term investment that plays its part in a sustainable future.

The future ahead looks bright, with an evergreener outlook on sustainable building and development.

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Discover Benelux & France | Business | ILM

Luxembourg: A location of choice

Innovative Lifestyle Managment

Cross-cultural skills: the essential for expatriate success In today’s business environment more and more people are relocating to new countries for work purposes. This uprooting generates feelings, challenges and opportunities not only in the work environment but also in the private sphere. TEXT: CHRISTINE FORNAROLI OF ILM – INNOvATIvE LIFESTYLE MANAGEMENT | PHOTOS: ILM

Starting anew in a different culture requires motivation, courage and great adaptability. As a newcomer the most difficult challenge is to adapt to a new cultural environment with inevitably different behaviour patterns. The ability to communicate with others from different cultures will give a newcomer a head-start in succeeding in a placement abroad. Competence in intercultural communication is essential not only to prevent misunderstandings and to be able to negotiate efficiently with colleagues and other contacts but also to integrate smoothly in a new environment. Settling in a new country entails innumerable practicalities like property searches, formalities with local and national authorities, car importation and school enrolment etc, but the biggest challenge is integrating a whole family in the new setting.

tural differences (and similarities), understanding values, behaviours, rituals and beliefs embedded in the new country of residence’s culture, awareness of stereotypes and the capacity to decode gestures, silence and all non-verbal codes peculiar to that nation. It’s crucial for the success of a move abroad that each family member thrives in the new living environment. Every individual has a lifestyle unique to themselves. Rebuilding a full life is taxing but rewarding. Leisure activities like sport, theatre, music, recreating social or professional networks, voluntary work or launching a business, can all help in integration. In doing all this, newcomers gain valuable cross-cultural experiences that build self-fulfillment in the new environment.

Knowledge of the language is one key to success. Others include awareness of cul-

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ILM Christine Fornaroli is the founder of Luxembourg-based company ILM, Innovative Lifestyle Management, that specialises in tailor-made expatriate support services to private individuals and entrepreneurs, saving them time to concentrate on other essential tasks. She worked in private banking before becoming a ‘trailing partner’ when her husband’s career took them to Paris and zurich. ILM provides customised services in anything related to starting life in Luxembourg. These range from property hunting, real estate investments, official paperwork, helping create social and professional networks, facilitating activities suited to fit their lifestyle, organising events, and helping the ‘trailing partner’, through self-fulfilment and support in setting up small businesses.

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Discover Benelux & France | Mini Theme | Legal Transformation


European lawyers at the service of the rule of law and justice To introduce this theme, we have a special message from the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe’s first vice-president, Michel Benichou. He explains the vital role lawyers play in the field of European law. TEXT: MICHEL BENICHOU, CCBE | PHOTOS: CCBE

The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) currently represents more than one million European lawyers, who are committed to defending and providing legal advice to citizens and residents of the European Union on a daily basis. This number matches the needs expressed by European companies, local authorities and consumers, testifying to a significant and continuing need for law. Today’s European and global society is complex and countries keep passing new laws. The European institutions have been attempting to harmonise these rules but with only relative success, given the resistance they have had to face. As a result, new European legislation complementing national laws has been introduced. Without the assistance of lawyers, it is impossible for citizens, local authorities and companies to know or understand their rights and, most importantly, defend them. The ability to defend these rights requires access to justice. Access to justice, a right hard-earned by European nations, is being threatened because of the limited resources European justice has at its disposal, the unacceptable length of time it takes to process cases and the cost of jus-

tice. European lawyers have been criticising this situation, and consider access to justice to be the first fundamental right which guarantees all other rights. Indeed, it is pointless to affirm the freedom of movement, the freedom of entrepreneurship or the right to security if companies and citizens cannot resort to justice to have these rights recognised. Equal access to justice for all, and especially for the middle class, can only be preserved if citizens band together to protect it and reaffirm their rights.

That is why citizens, companies and lawyers must band together to defend the rule of law and justice in Europe. Michel Benichou, CCBE First vice-President

Similarly, citizens and companies have an indisputable right to secrecy and privacy. All legislation dealing with terrorism, money laundering or tax evasion restricts rights and freedoms. The Snowden case has revealed that American intelligence has run a mass surveillance programme, although it should be pointed out that other countries carry out similar programmes as well. The wiretapping of lawyers, who act as guardians of freedoms, goes against the principles of the rule of law and democracy. If states themselves violate citizens’ rights, then the terrorists will have won. If we sacrifice our rights and freedoms in the name of security, then not only will we lose our rights, our public and personal freedoms, but our security as well.

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Discover Benelux & France | Mini Theme | Legal Transformation

Mitigation is better than litigation Perhaps it is because the firm is relatively young and staffed by lawyers still some years away from the silver-haired stage, that the Luxembourg legal practise of Wies Hertzog and Sorel (WHS) has such an innovative and refreshing outlook. TEXT: MARTIN PILKINGTON | PHOTOS: WIES HERTzOG SOREL

“Our approach starts in reception,” explains Frank Wies, one of the two founding partners: “Good language skills are expected in Luxembourg, but along with the usual Luxembourgish, French, German and English, we can greet clients in Portuguese for example, something that’s often helpful in our work with workers new to the country, and refugees.” Add to that list proficiency in Czech and Spanish and it’s clear that WHS has an international outlook. The legal training backgrounds of the three lawyers re-emphasise that point, each of them having studied outside Luxembourg’s borders as well as within the country.

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Since Frank Wies and Anne Hertzog decided to pool their expertise in 2009 the team has grown, the third partner Karim Sorel joining in 2014. They’re now seven in total, a number that Wies describes is still on a human scale. Humanity in that sympathetic sense is an important part of the firm’s way of working. Glance at the links page on their website for example and the one at the very top of the page is Amnesty International: “We’ve done quite a lot of work on the immigration side here,” says Wies: “That is not just with business people and new employees coming into the country, but refugees too, and we’ve worked on cases concerned with

human rights. Before we started the firm I had been involved with Amnesty, and I continue to be so, as I am with the Luxembourg Refugee Council. My colleagues and I still do plenty of work on refugees’ rights, and on immigration into Luxembourg and the EU in general. We help people avoid the potential administrative pitfalls that can slow or even halt the process.” That philosophy of speeding the resolution of problems and, if at all possible, of preventing their occurrence permeates much of the firm’s work. “On many occasions what we do is about supporting clients in negotiations before any formal legal process has begun,” he continues.

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Discover Benelux & France | Mini Theme | Legal Transformation

lawyers working face to face with clients in their places of business. But founding partner Frank Wies is involved in another way of spreading the legal word: “Every two weeks I do a legal information programme on public radio here,” he says: “It looks at the impact of particular decisions, at administrative reforms, and other wider matters relating to the law. It’s something I enjoy, and intend to continue, it’s important to communicate.”

Photo: Frank Wies

“For example we’ll sit down with a couple who want to divorce and try to help them reach a settlement that avoids litigation that can be protracted, expensive and bitter. Likewise in inheritance cases, where again litigation between parties can devour the legacy in question. Arbitration and mitigation are generally far better routes.” In the field of labour law, a major area of activity for the firm, partners have significant experience that again they frequently employ similar dispute resolution skills: “Whether we are representing the employer or the employee, an amicable agreement is a far better outcome than lengthy legal wrangling, especially if that means time and money spent in court,” says Wies. The ideal situation, particularly for business entities, is to do the groundwork that means disputes don’t arise in the first case: “In contract negotiations we also help

Photo: Karim Sorel

Photo: Anne Hetzog

companies steer clear of future contractual difficulties that come about because of lack of clarity, or misunderstandings, or terms like unfeasible delivery times that should not have been agreed to in the first place. Badly put together deals will come back to haunt businesses in the end. Clarity and good advice at the outset can avoid arguments between companies that can drag on for years otherwise, spoiling their relationship.” Although the firm’s lawyers make great efforts to keep clients out of litigation, sometimes court appearances cannot be prevented, and the team offers representation across the legal spectrum. This includes civil, criminal, administrative and social courts, at first instance and on appeal, for the plaintiff or defendant. The firm reaches out to its contacts from that polyglot reception, and from its

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Discover Benelux & France | Mini Theme | Transport and Logistics

Luxembourg logistics strategies Transport and logistics are historically at the heart of economic growth and are a great opportunity to increase productivity. Fundamentally, when choosing the way it handles internal and external flows, a company’s aim is to honour its contract while optimising its costs. It is within this framework that the law firm MARTIN AVOCATS helps transport and logistic companies by providing them with its legal expertise and knowledge. TEXT: HARUN OSMANOvIC | PHOTOS: MARTIN AvOCATS

According to the potential of contemporary technologies, companies have a myriad of possibilities. Logisticians therefore become key actors in the development of tomorrow’s world, a world in which logistics will play a major role. These changes require companies to be able to quickly adapt in a context that is not becoming any simpler, a market at the European and world scale, a very competitive landscape and fluctuating prices. It is up to the logisticians to come up with the processes, the right decision aid tools, production methodologies or information systems in order to reduce expenses and respect ecological standards. Within this context, the Grand Duchy has arguably a lot going for itself: its location and prime access to major European and international markets, its quality supports in

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the sectors of air, train and river freight, without forgetting the Luxembourg Freeport that is in full swing and the simplification of custom procedures. These are some of the reasons why many large companies choose Luxembourg as the centre of operation for their high value added logistical activities. In this regard, a large number of qualified actors, namely the freight forwarders and logistics providers, actively participate in this development. Member of the Luxembourg Bar since 1996, Sabrina Martin, founder of MARTIN AvOCATS, has developed an expertise in the legal and judicial life of companies and their executives. In 2005 she founded the law firm MARTIN AvOCATS with the mission to guide company founders from the genesis of their venture and throughout its

growth, especially by evaluating the legal risks linked with their activity, assisting them in the decision making processes and defending them in case of litigation.

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Discover Benelux & France | Mini Theme | Transport and Logistics

Part and parcel: the trials and tribulations of package tracking “Every single day is different, you never know what will happen and that breaks the routine of everyday life.” This break from the norm is what Gregory Demeulenaere likes most about his job. As Luxembourg technical director at courier firm TNT Express, Demeulenaere faces daily and long-term challenges. TEXT: LIDIJA LIEGIS | PHOTOS: TNT

During his eight years at TNT the company has undergone several changes including a demerger, a re-branding and an attempted acquisition. Most recently, in April 2015, FedEx announced its intention to buy TNT for 4.4 billion euros. TNT’s story begins in Australia in 1946. Founded by a man named Ken Thomas, it started as a transport business with a single truck. Over the past half century TNT has expanded into a global company with wideranging road and worldwide air networks. It operates in 200 countries and has over 2,300 depots. As well as courier services, TNT offers local and international express delivery; international road, air and sea freight services; and time-critical local or international deliveries. Its vehicles carry everything from documents to palletised freight. In a market loaded with freight carriers, TNT focuses on providing a first-rate client service: “What sets TNT apart from other couriers is our emphasis on people, we’re very

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flexible with regard to clients. We do everything we can for them, including lastminute work,” explains Demeulenaere. Reflecting this strong client stance, in 2014 the company underwent a corporationwide restructuring, re-branding as ‘The people network’. As part of its campaign it ran advertisements featuring trucks made of people to reflect its strong relationships with customers. A key challenge has been competing with low-cost courier services which have appeared in recent years. “There’s increased economic pressure on us: clients are trying to cut costs, the markets are more open and there are more competitors,” says Demeulenaere. Despite tough competition, TNT continues to attract new customers. In February it launched the ‘Blue Banana’ campaign, an initiative supporting parcel and freight shipments to some of Europe’s key trade countries. These comprise of Austria, the Benelux, France, Germany,

Italy, Switzerland and the UK. Through the campaign, new customers receive a 20 per cent discount card for all export shipments up to 250 kilos in one of these countries. TNT maintains its strong market position thanks to its global outreach, dedicated staff and international clientele.

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Discover Benelux & France | Franchise Formulas | Doppio Espresso

Quality coffee reinvented It is a dream turned reality for Peter van Eijl and Jonathan Teoh: making the Dutch fall in love with the rich, Italian-style coffee served at their own coffee chain, Doppio Espresso. Focussing on flavour and quality, this vision proved to be a recipe for success. TEXT: MYRIAM GWYNNED DIJCK | PHOTOS: DOPPIO ESPRESSO

The pair opened their first location in 2007 in Groningen and currently Doppio Espresso counts 24 coffee bars throughout the country. Inspired by Italian traditions, they combine top quality coffee with generous hospitality and a welcoming atmosphere. “Unlike many popular coffee chains, at Doppio Espresso we actually serve people at their tables. Serving excellent coffee is paramount but we consciously think about how to optimise every other aspect of a visit, so guests can fully relax in a positive environment and indulge in our fantastic coffee,” says co-owner Teoh. In 2008, a year into their venture, Doppio Espresso’s brew was crowned best coffee by national newspaper, Algemeen Dag-

blad. In 2014 they were voted Best Coffee Chain Western Europe during the Allegra European Coffee Symposium. The secret to their growth is threefold, from using the best ingredients and expert equipment to employing knowledgeable, certified baristas. He continues: “Through investing in these three tiers of the business we want to create something extraordinary. I think our success shows that this is something people are looking for.” The entrepreneurial duo is often travelling to learn from coffee experts abroad and to keep up with the latest equipment developments and the newest trends. This is showcased by Doppio Espresso’s wide range of exciting single-origin beans and flavoursome mélanges. “Every day, my

business partner Peter continues to improve and perfect our coffee aromas and product ranges. We want to be innovative and stay ahead of the crowd when it comes to new concepts and products.” Their determination certainly doesn’t stop there: “By 2020 we aim to have 60 to 80 locations. We only work with franchise partners who know the local area and are passionate about coffee so they can add something extra to the experience,” Teoh concludes. “It is our ambition to become a coffee chain with an international appeal, so a visit to the Netherlands would not be complete without having a coffee at Doppio Espresso.”

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Discover Benelux & France | Franchise Formulas | Domino’s

Celebrating innovation and delicious pizzas If you think pizza delivery, you think Domino’s. The global company has been going strong in the Benelux for almost 27 years, and this month it is celebrating the opening of its 200th location. We spoke to Dutch CEO André ten Wolde to tell us more about its successes and future aspirations. TEXT: MYRIAM GWYNNED DIJCK | PHOTOS: DOMINO’S

“Our strength is not just our international brand, but also our drive to innovate and of course our use of fresh ingredients only. We don’t use freezers, each time you place an order, your pizza is individually made starting from a ball of dough,” Ten Wolde starts passionately. Ambitious hardly covers Domino’s drive for expansion in the Dutch and Belgian region, as he continues: “By 2020 we want to have 400 locations. Our goal is to deliver pizzas to 90 per cent of our clientele within 20 minutes placing an order.” The strength behind this rapid growth is Domino’s successful franchise formula. The majority of the locations are owned and managed by franchisees eager to run their own branch. “Starting your own Domino’s is a low risk investment because

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you already have a thriving company behind you. There are great opportunities for continued growth, and people can expand by owning multiple locations,” Ten Wolde says. As a company brimming with young and ambitions people, innovation comes natural for Domino’s. Currently Ten Wolde and his team are planning to transition to electrical delivery bicycles with tracking devices, minimising their carbon footprint. “We want to get rid of the mopeds and scooters. At the moment, we are testing electrical bikes with GPS, and in the future customers can literally follow their pizza to their doorstep.” This drive to reinvent themselves is also reflected by the menus: every year, Domino’s launches up to seven new pizzas in the

Netherlands and Belgium. He adds: “We constantly work on new topping combinations and recently introduced a ham and asparagus pizza and even a sauerkraut pizza. We listen to people’s suggestions because all the best new ideas come straight from our shops.” Standing still is clearly not an option for Domino’s, as Ten Wolde concludes: “Currently almost 75 per cent of orders are placed digitally. We want to make it easier still to use our apps and website, so you can order a customised pizza with even fewer clicks. We also just released an app for the upcoming Apple Watch.”

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Discover Benelux & France | Entrepreneurs on the Rise | Fashiola

Within a collection of millions of clothes from hundreds of online fashion shops, Fashiola makes it easy to find exactly what you are looking for.

Trawling through online fashion Getting lost in the proliferation of online fashion shops is a problem every fashion lover experiences. The solution: Fashiola. This is the one website where you can conveniently browse through clothing from over 200 shops. TEXT: JANINE STERENBORG | PRESS PHOTOS

Looking for black high-heeled boots in your size? Or pink skinny jeans made from cotton? Thanks to its smart algorithm, the website Fashiola will find you the perfect pair. “The website updates automatically a few times a day, so even the newest products from any affiliated webshop can be found easily on Fashiola,” explains coowner Peter Langenkamp. “And you can conveniently filter all clothes by brand, colour, size, price range, store and so on.” It’s a fashion heaven for fashionistas. Fashiola is active in the Netherlands as and in Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and France as Fashiola. In addition to the website, mobile shopping will be taken to a higher level this summer, with an app that includes some interesting

features: “For instance, you can receive a push notification when your favourite item goes on sale,” Langenkamp explains. Fashiola was founded in 2012 by Langenkamp and his partners. “We just sold two online concepts to a large publisher and had some time on our hands.” Always looking for new business opportunities, they went out to get a sense of what was needed in the online world. “In that period, someone approached us: he owned a potentially valuable fashion-related domain name, but didn’t have a business concept. During this process, we realised zalando had opened the market for online fashion. Webshops popped up everywhere, awakening a need for a central website. That’s how we came up with, the concept we internationally branded as Fashiola, which is basically both a local search engine and a comparison site for online available clothes.” Since there are over a million products available through Fashiola in each country, a simple filter just wouldn’t cut the mustard. “It’s very important for us to offer a great user experience. So you can filter on almost all thinkable fashion aspects.” And it works perfectly. “Most visitors on the site won’t leave empty handed, since they find exactly what they are looking for!” | | | |

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Discover Benelux & France | Entrepreneurs on the Rise | ITMG

Managing success A successful business hinges on good management. Especially in the IT sector, where change is rapid and systems continuously evolve, it is essential to be adaptable while keeping your goals in mind. IT Management Group can help organisations make the most of their resources through excellent IT management and project management. TEXT: MYRIAM GWYNNED DIJCK | PHOTOS: IT MANAGEMENT GROUP

Specialising on the development of management skills, IT Management Group (or ITMG) can help to improve overall productivity as well as focus on the successful deliverance of specific projects. To achieve this, it offers three types of services; training, advice and consultancy. ITMG co-founder and managing director, Peter de Jong explains: “We can offer our services separately or as a mix, as they complement each other. We can step in at any time and first assess the maturity of the project or (government) organisation. Then we look at how we can help them improve and develop by giving a professional and tailored service.” De Jong founded the company with his business partner Eva Haslinghuis in 2008. He says: “We realised there was a clear need for better management in the field of

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IT and Project Management. In the Netherlands we were one of the first companies to offer specified IT management services in combination with project management services, and now we are also active in Belgium and Suriname.”

De Jong says: “PRINCE2 is the global gold standard for the practice of project management. It splits the management tasks into separate stages, each with a different protocol, to ensure a successful outcome.”

De Jong says there are certain common pitfalls that organisations should be wary of: “For example a weak business case, disconnection between management and implementation and limited progress monitoring. These often cause projects to overrun, go over budget or under deliver. We can help businesses to get back on track and avoid these issues in the future. Another area we specialise in, is the implementation of new security systems, especially for government organisations.”

The training ITMG offers is either through in-house sessions for companies or masterclasses for individuals. “Most of our courses last two days, but we can customise them to fit the needs of the company or management, from a single day to a month long training course,” De Jong concludes. “The masterclasses are held throughout the year and are open to everyone. People can sign up via our website.”

One of the project management methodologies that ITMG supports is PRINCE2.

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Discover Benelux & France | Business | Columns


Free lessons in Dutch for people who already speak it! It doesn’t make much sense, does it? Offering to teach people a language they already know. And to be fair, that’s not actually what it says on the Amsterdam website that describes the municipality’s free ten-month language training offer. Yet that’s the message that comes across. Because the page offering to help people learn Dutch is written entirely in Dutch. Thus the service is visible only to those who don’t need it. This type of failure is surprisingly common. The friend who alerted me to this website mentioned another favourite of hers: the well-intentioned note in a concert programme that proudly announced “if you are blind and cannot read this, there are audio programmes available”. In the world of communications, this error is known as ‘the curse of knowledge’ or ‘insider blindness’. The idea is that it’s hard to remember that everyone else doesn’t know the same things you know. Our brains are not wired to do this naturally. Can we overcome this predisposition? Absolutely. It involves developing the habit of asking ourselves what our audience would and

would not know and adjusting our language accordingly. How hard is that to do? That depends on how you define ‘hard’. It’s not complicated at all. But it can be tricky. As the Amsterdam website shows, even entire institutions can be tricked. That’s why instances like this are such a great source of entertainment (other than to those who made them, and those who end up suffering the consequences). They’re such delightfully dumb mistakes that we can’t help but laugh. All the same, insider knowledge errors are no indicator of low intelligence. To the contrary: brilliant, dedicated, highly educated people make this type of error all the time. So next time you fall under the spell of the curse of knowledge, don’t curse your lack of intelligence. Just work a little harder on the habit of stepping back and thinking clearly about what your audience does and doesn’t know.

Josiah Fisk

Josiah Fisk is the head of More Carrot LLC, a clear communications company with offices in Boston and Luxembourg.

Lean in or just say no? TEXT & PHOTO: STEvE FLINDERS

Usually, I understand the daily Dilbert cartoon, but when protagonist and office slugger Dilbert recently asked one of his female colleagues, Tina (whose career has stalled), if she has tried leaning in, I had to Google it. I discovered it comes from Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. It focuses ‘on encouraging women to pursue their ambitions, and changing the conversation from what we can’t do to what we can do’. There is a website (, a ‘lean in’ movement, and a whole debate about whether leaning in is a tool of female empowerment or one for enslaving women further within the corporate machine. Until I’ve read the book I won’t be qualified to say how far this is a step on from earlier calls to women to be more assertive, but all this made me reflect that, as a coach, I do meet a lot of women, and men, who find it difficult to say no or assert themselves adequately in the

workplace (the two don’t always go together but they often do). Being ‘assertive’ means ‘behaving confidently and able to say in a direct way what you want or believe’. But doesn’t a lot of our socialisation and education train us to do pretty much the opposite: to keep quiet and do what we’re told? Many of us find it difficult to represent our own best interests in the workplace and outside it too, and we spend too much time serving the agendas of other (more assertive) people rather than our own. Breaking the habit of a lifetime is not easy but one way to deal with this is to decide to say ‘no’ out loud next time you are about to drop yourself in it again, it’s hard the first time but, little by little, it gets easier with practice. So that’s my rather simple if not simplistic contribution to the ‘leaning in’ debate. The response of Dilbert’s colleague was to ask how he could sound helpful and offensive at the

same time. Dilbert says it’s a gift he has. I hope I have shown more of the first than the second here.

Steve Flinders Steve Flinders is a freelance trainer, writer and coach, now based in Malta, who helps people develop their communication and leadership skills for working internationally:;

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Discover Benelux & France | Business | Calendar


The Second Home Fair – ready to invest? Antwerp Expo, Belgium, 5-7 June Perhaps it’s time to look for new investment opportunities on the property market? The Second Home Fair in Antwerp brings you the very best companies and projects, allowing visitors to gain new information and plan their next big investment adventure in Europe. Meet international exhibitors from the sunny coasts of Spain to the Swiss Alps. There is something for everyone. Business Summit 2015 Brussels, Belgium, 10 June This upcoming Business Summit in Brussels zooms in on Latin America and the Caribbean, seeking to increase EU investment and business cooperation in the region. The event will bring together business community representatives, financial institutions and policy makers from across Eu-

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rope and Latin America. Find out how Europe can benefit from building stronger relationships with businesses across the Atlantic. Business matchmaking at its best Evoluon Eindhoven, the Netherlands, 1011 June Every year policymakers, entrepreneurs and investors from 60 countries gather to acquire information on new worldwide developments, investment and trade opportunities, and this year is no different. NBI Expo provides business opportunities to global, public and private parties through their special matchmaking programme. Meet high-level decision makers face-toface and extend your network. A celebration of creative innovation Cannes, France, 21-27 June Cannes Lions is an exciting concept, a

festival and business event that puts creativity first. The team behind this beloved event believes that being creative is a driving force for business, for change and for good. They seek to inspire creative bravery that changes the course of communications. Their awards set a global benchmark for what innovation looks like, and their annual festival connects those with a similar vision. The iGaming event of the year Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 23-26 June The iGaming Super Show is the biggest exhibition and conference in the online betting industry, boasting an impressive array of networking opportunities, master classes and new ideas. With more than a hundred speakers and stands, this year’s event is expected to exceed all expectations. This is the perfect opportunity to get inspired.

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Private Banking.

Sometimes 3 letters make all the difference Because you shouldn’t have to compromise to achieve excellence, ING Luxembourg offers you a full experience in Private Banking. Our experts in asset management, lending solutions, wealth analysis and planning keep up-to-date to offer you the most relevant advice regarding your overall situation.

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Discover Benelux & France | Art Feature | Venice Biennale


Presenting international contemporary art Every two years, the cream of the art world flies to Italy for the Venice Art Biennale. Founded in 1895 it is one of the most influential events of the contemporary art agenda. TEXT: AMÉLIE TIMMERMANS

Nigerian born Okwui Enwezor was appointed as the curator for 2015. As the first African curator of a Biennale he was expected to bring a strong overall sociopolitical flavour to the event. Entitled All the World’s Futures, the 56th International Art Exhibition includes over 130 international artists whose works allude to the current climate of crisis and uncertainty. In addition of the main exhibition, participating countries organise independent exhibitions in their national pavilions and many collateral events sprawl around town converting most of Venice into a giant art venue until 22 November this year. The Giardini is one of the main sites of the Biennale. This open-air garden hosts the

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permanent pavilions of most participating countries including Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Discover Benelux & France reports on their exhibitions.

The Dutch pavilion The Rietveld building owned by the Netherlands presents a solo show by Herman de Vries. This Dutch artist is internationally established for his interest in science, nature and philosophy. To Be All Ways To Be focuses on the origins of human existence. During an earlier stay in Italy the artist gathered organic materials found around the Laguna such as tree trunks, stones and sand to fill the pavilion. By acknowledging the natural world as our foundation the exhibition captures the poetry of nature.

Inside the pavilion visitors embark in a multi-sensorial journey that evokes a childlike sense of wonder. Echoes of De Vries’ recorded voice articulating the mantra ‘Infinity in finity’ resonate in the space. Dried rose buttons are arranged in a large circle on the floor. A wall is covered by framed earth rubbings on paper from different locations worldwide in a beautiful display. All these fragments of nature were carefully collected by De Vries to restore a connection between mankind and the mother of all.

The Belgian pavilion A stone’s throw away, artist Vincent Meessen was selected to represent Belgium. Instead of opting for a solo show he

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Discover Benelux & France | Art Feature | venice Biennale

invited nine international artists to contribute to Personne et les Autres, Vincent Meessen and Guests. The exhibition addresses issues of identity in the postcolonial age. The project is innovative in several ways, for its political dimension and also for it challenges of the concept of national representation. All the artists in the show share an interest in uncovering distortions at stake in the writing of history. The show is organised around One, Two, Three, a three channel digital video installation by Meessen. The video records a new version of an avant-garde Congolese protest song. Originally written in 1968 its existence had been shadowed by historical bias and was soon forgotten. Taking place in the Belgian pavilion built in 1907 under the rule of Leopold II, the coherence of the exhibition makes a strong impact.

The French pavilion Not far away, France presents Rêvolutions by Céleste Boursier-Mougenot. This sitespecific commission aims to raise awareness on climate change in a poetic fashion. Four huge uprooted trees are set in motion through a complex inner system. They move slowly inside and outside the pavilion according to the fluxes of their sap. The main exhibition space has been left empty except for one of the trees standing in its centre. The glass roof has been removed in order to fully let nature in. visitors are invited to sit down in an immersive act of meditation. The surreal experience of watching moving trees is somewhat unsettling.

The Luxembourg pavilion

Main Image (opposite page) and Bottom Left: The Dutch pavilion, works by Herman de vries. Photos: Judith Jockel Images above: The trees of the French pavilion. Photos: Laurent Lecat Top Left: The Limbic Theater, with 'Nature morte', in the Luxembourg pavilion. Photo: Filip Markiewicz / Christian Mosar

Luxembourg’s venue is located outside the Giardini. Paradiso Lussemburgo was commissioned to artist Filip Markiewicz. It refers to the reductive understanding of Luxembourg as nothing but a tax haven. The exhibition unfolds as a theatre play organised in different acts as one evolves from one room to the other.

tion rooms. This theatrical show turns art into entertainment inviting visitors to sing, dance and play.

Markiewicz’s body of work is cynical in addressing issues of consumerism and entertainment through a remix of found imagery. Fake banknotes, mock billboards and allusions to pop culture fill the exhibi

The diversity of each respective national pavilion provides a rich sample of a local art production. With booming artistic talent, the Benelux countries and France certainly do themselves proud.

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Discover Benelux & France | Summer Fun | Madame Tussauds & The Amsterdam Dungeon


It is safe to say that most people know what Madame Tussauds is. It is a worldwide known brand, an international icon. For over 200 years, Madame Tussauds has astonished and entertained people with remarkable wax statues.

launched this summer. Among them are super stars Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes. Also an entire room will be devoted to fashion, including a figure of Anna Wintour.

Who was Madame Tussaud? Born on 1 December 1761 in France, as Marie Grosholtz, she became a pupil of Dr. Curtius in 1770. She created her first wax figure in 1778: writer and philosopher voltaire.

After Dr. Curtius’ death in 1794, Marie inherited his exhibition. A year later, Marie married

The present process of making a wax statue has hardly changed since Madame Tussauds made them in 1790. What has changed over the years, is that is it no longer a ‘puppet exhibition’ but an interactive experience. visitors are able to be Lady Gaga’s drummer, experience a true Marilyn Monroe moment or ride E.T.’s bike.

the French soldier François Tussaud. In 1802, she leaves France for England and for a while she exhibits the wax figures at the Lyceum Theatre in London, but then went traveling. In 1835 Marie settled her exhibition in London. At age 80, Marie created her last self-portrait statue, which is at Madame Tussauds Amsterdam. Marie died in 1850 and her sons inherited the collection. The exhibition moves once more in

The collection in Amsterdam continues to grow. Each year, five new figures are added. For 2015 the new figures will be

1884, to what is still the Madame Tussauds London location today.


The Amsterdam Dungeon tells us the tales of the dark history of Amsterdam. Stories that are not published in the history books, but nevertheless survived the passage of time. These tales are the personal stories of the witch burnings, life onboard the Batavia, the Spanish Inquisition and the plague. This is an exciting chance to experience an interactive walk through Amsterdam’s darkest days. With a great cast of actors, exceptional special effects and a mind-blowing stage and décor the Amsterdam Dungeon provides a fabulous show, in which you can see, feel, touch and smell the experience. Most of the time it's funny, but sometimes it's a bit

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scary. It's definitely not a haunted house, but an unforgettable interactive attraction. When taking the tour you will see different areas of the dungeons and the stories that belong there. In 11 shows the Amsterdam Dungeon displays the shadowy yet relatively unknown history of Amsterdam and its antiheroes. Because the audience gets involved, no one tour is the same. The professional actors make sure the experience will be unforgettable. They play the most horrible roles, from the insane judge to the demonic executioner. This summer the Amsterdam Dungeon will present some special shows. In July

and August old London tales will be told in the very special ‘Jack the Ripper on tour’. The stories about the worldwide notorious serial killer are told by locals who all have their own ideas of the true identity of Jack the Ripper.

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At the 60-metre-long glass wall, you’ll literally come face to face with walruses and dolphins.

Europe’s largest marine mammal park The Dolfinarium, a unique theme park with an impressive collection of marine mammals, offers a full-day programme with no fewer than ten spectacular shows and demonstrations. The dolphin show Aqua Bella was even declared the best in the world.

The most fun animals around you There are loads of fun things to do in the largest sea mammal park in Europe: stroll from the Dolfijnendelta – where you can see newborn dolphins – to the Zeehondenzand, where the harbour seals and grey seals live. Listen to the noisy sea lions and see just how colossal walruses are. In the Roggenrif, you can meet the smaller inhabitants of the North Sea, such as bass, rainbow trout and sea anemone; see them from up close and find out just how interesting they are. You can even pet the sharks and rays.

Animal welfare first The Dolfinarium has been around for fifty years. Over the years the park has done a lot of research and made a significant contribution to the protection of the animals in the wild. Animal welfare has always been and will always be top priority in the research of the Dolfinarium. The park takes care of its marine animals with a lot of love, passion and respect.

Opening times The Dolfinarium is open till November 1st 2015, daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (in July and August to 6 p.m.). During the special Caribbean Summer nights the park is open until 9 p.m. (24, 25 & 31 July and 1, 7, 8, 14 & 15 August). A visit to the Netherlands is incomplete without a visit to the Dolfinarium. Situated in the middle of the country, it’s less than an hour drive from Amsterdam. Buy your Harderwijk tickets online to get the Amsterdam best deals!

Dolfinarium Strandboulevard Oost 1, Harderwijk, The Netherlands

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Discover Benelux & France | Special Feature | Miffy turns 60

Miffy the rabbit icon turns 60 She’s without a wrinkle to show for it, but this month Miffy turns 60 years old. Created by Utrecht illustrator, graphic designer and writer Dick Bruna, the charming bunny character is a recognised design icon and is popular with children and adults across the globe. TEXT: HEATHER WELSH | PHOTO: NBTC / ILLUSTRATIONS DICK BRUNA © COPYRIGHT MERCIS Bv, 1953 - 2015

Miffy is mostly known through the colourful picture books read in over 40 languages. To date, over 85 million Miffy books have been sold. Her drawn adventures are accompanied by easy-to-read texts, aimed at children from two to six years.

Although the design has changed very little since 1963, Bruna’s illustrations were initially more akin to a stuffed animal with floppy ears. This was developed until Miffy was drawn in the iconic minimalist style with just a few lines and a small cross for a mouth.

With a head and ears much bigger than the size of her body, it’s easy to see why Miffy’s inquisitive looks have captured hearts and imaginations of many. Her simple pinafore dress brings a splash of colour to the page, most of which contain only primary colours with white. In Bruna’s stories, these simple illustrations are combined with rhyming text to explore the universal experiences of childhood. This simplicity combined with such an insight into children’s ways of seeing the world has meant Miffy is just as popular now as 60 years ago.

The original Dutch name, nijntje, is an abbreviation of the word konijntje meaning ‘little rabbit’. Bruna was inspired to create the character in 1955 after chatting to his oneyear old son Sierk about a little rabbit they had seen playing in the dunes during a holiday on the Dutch coast. Interestingly, the rabbit’s age remains ambiguous throughout the books; some stories suggest she is a baby and others that she is up to four years old.

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Sixty years later, Miffy merchandise is sold across five continents and her stories have

been developed into several musicals, Tv series and a movie. Successfully entertaining infants from all over the world, the popularity of this character lives on. Where to see Miffy - The Centraal Museum, Utrecht: The family exhibition Celebrating 60 Years of Miffy observes her birthday from 20 June to 20 September. - Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam: Dick Bruna – The Artist reveals the inspiration behind Miffy from 27 August to 15 November. - The dick bruna huis, Utrecht: Currently closed for refurbishments and expected to re-open towards the end of 2015 with a new Miffy exhibition aimed at children.

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Discover Benelux & France | Lifestyle Column | Liz Wenger

Luxembourg, a view from someone who left Leaving your native country is exhilarating at first. Everything is so new that you don’t think about your old home. Once you have settled into a routine, you start to notice the differences between your old home and your new one. Three years after leaving Luxembourg for Canada, I look back on my home country with different eyes. TEXT: LIz WENGER | PHOTOS: PHILIP WENGER (USELDANGE vILLAGE)

The calm and quiet of everyday Luxembourg life certainly can be perceived as boring. Shops close at 6pm and usually remain so on Sundays, and after that, people tend to spend the evenings inside making for little foot traffic. Except on the eve of Luxembourg's National Day on 23 June, where one recalls feeling squished among too many people. With a population of just over half a million people, you don’t have to stand in line for long or rush to the swimming pool on a hot day before they reach full capacity. It’s easy to appreciate the peaceful simplicity of Luxembourg life after experiencing long queues, overcrowded events and noisy streets in Toronto. Canada sure boasts a magnificent landscape from the Rocky Mountains in Alberta and British Columbia to the Niagara Falls in Ontario. Travelling to these places requires expen-

sive flight tickets, long drives or both. Luxembourg, though small, features beautiful forests, castles and an incredible history going back to 963 when Count Siegfried acquired Lucilinburhuc, now known as Luxembourg Castle. This quaint country lies in the heart of Europe with quick access to Amsterdam, Paris, London, Berlin and Rome, all under two-hour flights away. Noting the vast difference in size between Luxembourg and Canada, it is interesting that both economies are doing so well on a global level. Previously a poor farming nation taxed in the 19th century by William I, King of the Netherlands, Luxembourg’s economic rise started with steel in the 1960s and has since moved on to services, banking and finance where it consistently scores top GDP performance as well as being the world’s second largest investment fund centre behind the United

States and a European leader in private banking and reinsurance. Luxembourg, a country that fits into Lake Ontario around 31 times, is continuing to surprise in terms of quality of life to its residents, business innovation to its investors, and nostalgia to those who left. Liz Wenger published the first English book to teach yourself Luxembourgish, available on

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Discover Benelux & France | Columns | Lifestyle


When the sun is out, us Belgians make the most of it. At this time of year, Brussels goes ‘aperitif’ with many post-work drinks and evening get-togethers all around the city. Having lived in Brussels for years, let me introduce my favourites. It is time to go terrace hopping. The long evenings in June are the perfect excuse to enjoy drinks al fresco with friends and colleagues. On Wednesdays head towards the Place du Châtelain for the late afternoon market. World street food stalls line the square, ranging from Italian antipasti to sushi, while the surrounding bars attract a laidback crowd of lo-

around the square do happy hour discounts, although you will have to elbow your way through as it gets busy from five o’clock. The Jardins Suspendus is the perfect haunt for a seasonal rooftop drink. Every Saturday the rooftop of a building located in central Brussels is turned into a garden with a cocktail bar, grass and deckchairs. From there you will enjoy a breath taking view of the skyline. You can continue your night in a nearby club called Club La vilaine that is popular for electronic music. On weekends I like to visit Saint-Gilles for its

multicultural vibe. By the Parvis, Café verschueren is one of Brussels beautiful, authentic Art Deco bistros. The interior exudes a sense of timeless Belgitude. You could easily imagine Jacques Brel sitting at one of the tiny wooden tables. Nearby, Café de la Maison du Peuple has great outdoor seating, a creative food menu and a varied live music agenda. Brussels benefits from being at the crossroads of European cultures, and the summer brings a southern vibe to the city, one best enjoyed with a chilled drink in the sun.

cals. One of my favourites for a bite on-the-go is Mamma Roma’s pizza where you pay for your slices by weight. Thursday evenings happen at Place du Luxembourg. Located at the heart of the European district, it is where expats and Belgians mingle. Hearing that many different languages spoken in one place is incredible. All the bars


Celebrating the colours of Matisse TEXT: MATT ANTONIAK | PHOTO: GERT JAN vAN ROOIJ

Henri Matisse was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Whatever medium the Frenchman turned his hand to, he managed to create sublime works with seemingly effortless ease. The Oasis of Matisse exhibition

have any appreciation of art history to enjoy Matisse. His works are a celebration, a carnival of colours; beautiful, bright and alive – a thoroughly joyous viewing experience.

tounding piece of art that, like all of Matisse’s oeuvre, holds such vivacity and abounding sense of fun that it seems it could have only been made yesterday.

at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam is the largest display of Matisse’s work ever in the Netherlands, showcasing a selection of his paintings, cut-outs and sculptural works.

The undoubted star of the show at the Stedelijk is the iconic The Parakeet and the Mermaid, which he created in 1952 two years before his death. At this point Matisse was very ill, and he made Parakeet in an attempt to bring the outdoors inside. His assistants pinned the cut-out paper shapes to the wall around the house. At the slightest breeze the shapes would flutter on the wall, turning his home into a colourful garden. It is an as-

The Oasis of Matisse is now on display at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam until 16 August.

What makes this Matisse exhibition particularly interesting is the curatorial decision by the Stedelijk to exhibit Matisse alongside the permanent collection. The aim of this is to show the massive influence that Matisse had on his contemporaries. Indeed, the Expressionists are indebted to him, Mark Rothko acknowledged his influence, and he clearly had a tangible effect on Barnett Newman. But you don’t need to

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Discover Benelux & France | Out & About | Culture Calendar

Photo: Museum Van Loon

Photo: Taste of Amsterdam

Photo: Taste of Amsterdam

Photo: Tom Elst

Photo: CSI Luxembourg

Out & About With its warm days and a wealth of festivals to choose from, June is the month dedicated to outdoor pursuits. Fill your stomach with culinary delights in Amsterdam, experience live music in a French Roman amphitheatre or salute the patriotic parades on Luxembourg’s National Day. TEXT: CAROLINE EDWARDS

Get a taste of Amsterdam Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 4-7 June Are you a foodie? Then you are going to love this four-day culinary feast in the heart of Amsterdam. Here, creative chefs prepare mouth-watering dishes just for you. Try the best of Dutch and international cuisine and get the chance to learn new cooking skills from experts at this year’s Taste of Amsterdam, a festival that boasts an impressive array of food and wine. Brussels Film Festival Brussels, Belgium, 5-12 June European Cinema is known for its cultural diversity and Brussels Film Festival will show you why. With films from more than 15 different European countries and a blend of feature and short films, debates and master classes, everyone’s filmdreams can come true. Watch the stories

unfold on the silver screen, meet upcoming stars and soak in the latest stories from countries all over Europe. The biggest jumping event of the year Roeser, Luxembourg, 11 – 14 June Since 1992, the international show and jumping competition Réiser Päerdsdeeg has attracted thousands of spectators. Watch the best national and international horse riders at Herchesfeld in Roeser, this year with 14 official competitions, packed with horse jumping and action. You can also take time off to enjoy a wide range of family activities such as music and fun entertainment for the little ones. An artistic take on globalisation Mons, Belgium, 13 June – 18 October WIELS’ will soon be ready to present

Atopolis, an exhibition that seeks to take on the important topic of migration by exploring cultural dislocation and fluid identities. Made by a group of artists that are all fascinated by the concept of circulation, a visit to Atopolis will make your mind spin faster and faster. Learn more about the history of migration and cultural identity at an exhibition that embraces the idea of cosmopolitanism. Open Garden Days Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 19-21 June Each summer Museum van Loon gives people the unique opportunity to explore a hidden part of Amsterdam, as more than 25 canal houses open up to the public who get to enjoy the sight of the city’s marvelous hideouts, the secret gardens. Many of these green oases date back as far as the 17th century canals, providing visitors

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Discover Benelux & France | Out & About | Culture Calendar

with an opportunity to sit back and enjoy picturesque surroundings. Luxembourg National Day Luxembourg, 22-23 June Luxembourg’s National Day celebrates the symbolic birthday of the Grand Duke and is a day full of festivities. On 22 June at 10pm, a torchlight procession lights up the streets, followed by spectacular fireworks that illuminates Pétrusse valley in Luxembourg City. The next day brings a joyful array of music, official parades and lively streets, as the people of Luxembourg join together in a cheerful holiday celebration. Can you roller skate for 24 hours? Le Mans, France, 27-28 June If you are sick of running marathons and fancy something slightly different, Le Mans’ 24-hour roller skating competition in France could do the trick. Each year teams of one to 12 riders take off from the famous Bugatti Race Circuit of Le Mans. It’s a weekend full of joy, celebrated by amateurs and professionals alike, the perfect opportunity to fall in love with skating. A festival with a Roman touch Nîmes, France, 24 June – 26 July

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The Festival in Nîmes takes place in the Roman amphitheatre in historical surroundings, but don’t be fooled, the location might be ancient, but the music certainly isn’t. Each year visitors can enjoy some of the biggest musical geniuses as they spread their magic around the arena and make fans go crazy, which is hardly a surprise. With names such as Lenny Kravitz, Santana, Sting and Selah Sue, the festival certainly has flair for attracting talent.

At this yearly procession that dates back to the 15th century, visitors are met by thousands of onlookers, dressed up in period costumes as descendants of historical figures, even giants and archangels. The original purpose of the event was to honour Notre-Dame of Sablon, something that has not been forgotten, even to this day.

Open air theatre in Wiltz Wiltz, Luxembourg, 27 June – 27 July Since 1953, The Festival of Wiltz has provided visitors with a unique theatrical experience. Its open-air scene is set in stunning surroundings with a castle as background, covered by a roof to shield guests from the occasional rainy days. Experience dramatic performances that range from theatre to dance to music, led by performers of international breadth. This is the perfect opportunity to combine a visit to Luxembourg with a cultural event. Ommegang in Brussels 30 June and 2 July, Brussels, Belgium The term Ommegang means to ‘walk around’ in Old Flemish and is the name of one of Brussels earliest historical traditions.

Left Photo: Peter Kilchmann Gallery Top Right Photo: Thomas Dane Gallery Lodnon Middle Right Photo: Thomas Dane Gallery Lodnon Bottom Right Photo: Taste of Amsterdam

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Discover Benelux & France | Lifestyle | Columns

Rejected asylum-seekers and the game of Dutch politics TEXT: SIMON WOOLCOT | PHOTO: NBTC

Recently, ordinary citizens of the Netherlands have become involved in lobbying the government for a workable solution to the problem of rejected asylum-seekers. In a case of democracy in action, it has led to pressure for positive change. In the Netherlands the asylum-seekers are entitled to shelter from the moment they apply for asylum, until they are either granted a residence permit, or are rejected. Previously, they would have remained in an asylum centre until their true identities were determined. However in a bid to appease right-wing voters of the Pvv (Geert Wilders’ party) an immigration law was passed in 2001 restricting the maximum government support for failed asylum seekers to 28 days. This policy has created a nightmare for city councils in the Netherlands, particularly in Amsterdam. Groups of homeless, rejected asylum-seekers have been taking shelter in churches, office buildings and even on patches

of empty land. After being rejected, the idea is that the asylum-seekers should voluntarily return to their countries of origin. Like Pontius Pilate, the government has washed their hands clean of all further responsibility. Recently, the plight of the asylum-seekers has made national news. The council of Europe has ordered the Dutch government to provide decent humanitarian conditions to rejected asylum-seekers. The public, also angry about the situation, has forced the Mayor of Amsterdam to step-in and provide emergency shelters. A solution was demanded from the parties of government, the PvDA (the labour party) and the Dutch liberals (vvD). After a week of negotiations an agreement was reached. As a compromise, only the five largest cities in the Netherlands will be allowed to offer accommodation to homeless, rejected asylum-seekers for a maximum of two weeks. This has led to further criticism of the Dutch Government, particularly from the public, who

are embarrassed about the damage such decisions are doing to the country’s reputation as the home of tolerance and liberalism. It is good to see that the government is listening to the combined pressure from local councils and the Dutch public, the majority of which is unhappy with the current situation. Hopefully this will lead to a more workable solution being offered regardless of the political manoeuvring of the Dutch government. Photo: Binnenhof, The Hague - the political seat of power in the Netherlands

Waterloo: the Belgian fields that shaped Europe’s destiny TEXT: DIEGO PHILIPS | PHOTO: M. FASOL - CULTURESPACES

When Napoleon came to Belgium 200 years ago, it was not because he was attracted by the smell of the chips, waffles and chocolate. Rather, he came to what would soon become Belgium to protect his empire. To

300 horses and 100 canons. Spectacular fireworks shows and re-enactments will be held between the 18 and the 21 June.

this day, the Battle of Waterloo is still commemorated in style during yearly spectacles.

cent spectacle featuring music, dance and fireworks enforced by the poems of the French author victor Hugo, who found refuge in the town of Waterloo a few years after the battle to avoid the censure in France. As Belgium would not be the same without its beers, two ‘Waterloo’ specials are brewed for the occasion by the eponym brewery. To complete the experience, order a portion of the amazing chips served in the area (just don’t ask for French fries).

If you walk in the fields of Waterloo today, you will see the triumphant lion statue on top of a hill, facing the south, to symbolically protect Belgium from a future invasion by the French. Waterloo, located in the suburbs of Brussels, hosts an annual re-enactment of the famous battle, which ended Napoleon’s rule as Emperor of the French. This year the event is going to be enormous as it is the 200th anniversary, including more than 5,000 participants,

The opening show, Inferno, will be a magnifi-

Belgium has more to offer than waffles and chocolate, it is a land with a rich history. Now it is your turn to walk through the bivouacs in the footsteps of Napoleon, victor Hugo and the victorious Duke of Wellington, and maybe even see the French emperor on his white horse.

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We are not all born with the same means of defence

Your defence, our mission Luxembourg residence, domiciliation, corporate, real estate, labour law Elected Boutique Corporate Law Firm of the Year in Luxembourg 2015 - Corp. Intl

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