© Zahra Reijs

"In my opinion, a design is successful when it visualises exactly the essence of the project."

Dennis Vanderbroeck

29 November 2022

Dennis Vanderbroeck works with his studio, on an international scale, on projects in various disciplines and contexts. A physical encounter in a physically designed space is always at the core of his work. After completing his Bachelor of Performance at the Toneelacademie in Maastricht, he completed a Master of Fine Arts at Central Saint Martins. At Bureau Betak, he designed fashion shows for Dior, Raf Simons and Jacquemus, among others. Since the foundation of his own Studio, Vanderbroeck has designed stage sets for Internationaal Theater Amsterdam and Het Nationale Theater. He designed fashion shows for Diesel and Y/Project, developed live sets for Yung Nnelg and Wende and designed exhibitions at TENT Rotterdam and Modemuseum Hasselt.

MAD had a conversation with Dennis Vanderbroeck

Can you briefly introduce Studio Dennis Vanderbroeck?

"Studio Dennis Vanderbroeck is my design studio, based in Rotterdam. The studio specialises in spatial design. We are not set designers or architects, we purely design the physical design of certain spaces. We work in many different disciplines and contexts, both nationally and internationally. We design fashion shows, exhibitions, theatre pieces, as well as live sets for artists."

"Despite the diversity of disciplines, my methodology remains the same in every assignment. Our design must serve the content. We always start from the core idea of the project, for a fashion show it is the collection, for a theatre performance it is the storyline and for a concert it is the lyrics. In my opinion, a design is successful when it visualises exactly the essence of the project."

What are the current challenges you face in your studio?

"I think the sustainability issue is the biggest challenge. My practice is by definition not sustainable because I keep producing new things with every assignment. Within production, I do try to think about how I can be more sustainable. I also try to monitor more and more where our products are made and where our materials come from. However, as I am a small agency, it takes a lot of time and money to do this properly. That makes it very difficult for me."

"In addition, with projects I do always think about whether I can reuse elements from previous sets. For example, I currently have the idea of reclaiming a previous set for a new theatre production. However, this is never done. I am expected to always come up with something new but we are talking about two performances that deal with the same themes. So why can't I use the same set? It's an interesting challenge." 

You will also soon be on stage yourself, A Masterpiece, or at least a brave attempt will be presented at the Zuidelijk Toneel in January. Why suddenly this change of direction? 

"I have worked at large companies, such as Bureau Betak, working within a certain structure. I have also gained experience working with individual artists who have their own way of working. I am looking for something in between. I am not interested in working in a big company, but neither am I interested in making free work alone in a studio. However, I have always made an agreement with myself that if I have a good idea and the moment is right, I will allow myself to make free work. Right now, it feels very much like this is a momentum and I need to make this performance now."

"I do hope that, although it is something of a stylistic break, the performance fits within the rest of my designs. For that reason, I show my performance both in theatres and museums, two disciplines within which my spatial design also manifests itself. In doing so, I also design the set myself. Since I perform in museums, in other words venues where I will not have the facilities of a theatre hall, this is something new I have to take into account. This means that all the technology, such as light and sound, will be on the ground so we are not dependent on certain structures."


Do you have any tips for beginners in the design world?

"What has helped me the most is trusting my own intuition. Also, I think it is important to build up slowly and not wanting to go too fast from the start. It's easy to be influenced by everything you see on the internet, especially on Instagram. You risk losing yourself because of it. Have faith in your own work, and it will eventually be seen. I truly believe that quality will always be appreciated. It may take a little longer, but it pays off in hindsight."