Le Pristine, where Modernist meets Baroque

By Elspeth Pridham
July 16, 2020

Danish design studio Space Copenhagen has revealed the interiors of Le Pristine, an ambitious restaurant project in Antwerp by Michelin acclaimed chef Sergio Herman.

The project, which sees Herman partner with luxury Belgian fashion brand Verso, has just opened and features an a la carte restaurant and café/deli.

Le Pristine is a long, 445 sqm space that occupies the ground floor of a 1960s modernist building that had been left partly demolished. Space Copenhagen has kept some of these dramatic unfinished elements to visually tell the story of the building’s transformation.

For Signe Bindslev Henriksen and Peter Bundgaard Rützou, founders of Space Copenhagen, bringing Le Pristine to life has been an exercise in using design to weave together art, gastronomy and architecture. Understanding Antwerp, its atmosphere and its rich cultural and artistic roots was paramount in creating Le Pristine. Space Copenhagen used the great Flemish and Dutch masters as a reference for the colour palette of subdued warm rusty reds, milky black, sand and grey tones. The studio also worked closely with artisans and craftspeople to create a bespoke tapestry of textures, materials and references.

At the entrance Le Pristine Cafe is warm and inviting and houses a traditional wood-fired oven. Space Copenhagen used a Belgian stone patterned floor and smoked oak joinery to contrast the industrial steel beams and concrete imprint of a staircase to the residential building above.

The restaurant, which features an open kitchen, has six-metre-high ceilings, with local plants and an abundance of daylight from the large full height glass window at the opposite end of the room. Space Copenhagen has created a collection of bespoke tables and seating, as well as the Antwerp Chair, a chair designed specifically for the space and developed by Danish furniture brand Fredericia. These sit alongside warmly upholstered banquettes in colours inspired by Baroque paintings. Belgian linen tablecloths and napkins, designed by concept studio SH19 and manufactured by Flemish company Verilin, tie in local tradition and add a medieval touch to the diverse materiality of the design.

Le Pristine has two courtyards, one that looks into the Baroque splendour of Verso and the other, where a specially selected 10-metre-tall tree has been installed. This space also features a huge pile of firewood used for the wood-fired-ovens inside the restaurant.

Commenting on the design for Le Pristine, Peter Bundgaard Rützou says, “Antwerp is relatively small city but extremely design driven. From the outset we were fascinated by the renaissance architecture, history and the artists from the region and the way they depicted rural and rudimentary settings, people eating, enjoying a meal with a sense of humbleness. This informed how we envisioned the social experience at Le Pristine and the restaurant has been designed with a sense of slow aesthetics as a vehicle for modern social encounter in Antwerp.”