Fair Architecture

Community has been an essential characteristic of Liste since its founding; many galleries and artists were and are at the beginning of their careers when they participate in Liste Art Fair Basel, where they make new contacts and friendships with collectors, curators and colleagues who often accompany them on their paths forward. Our architects, OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen i.c.w. Richard Venlet, adopted this characteristic and have created an interconnected circular format for the fair with sections that open up to various social spaces. 

Collage, OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen i.c.w. Richard Venlet
Collage, OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen i.c.w. Richard Venlet

Interview with the architects Kersten Geers and David Van Severen

Can you introduce yourself?

We are architects. We are cultural producers. We organise spaces and shape contexts for things to happen. We teach architecture and we make architecture. We are many people in the OFFICE. We work in very diverse contexts. Our international team is like a group of family members – there is a lot of cohesion and an open mindset. 

What is architecture?

Architecture is everything. It is an intentional gesture; it has an idea and a plan. Architecture makes places. It is concerned with beauty and making a meaningful contribution to human environments.

How did you approach designing the fair architecture for Liste?

Liste used to be organised in the former Warteck brewery, which is a special place that gave the fair its character. Designing a new space for Liste in a hall of Messe Basel was – and still is – a challenge. To start, we outlined the questions of how to give character to Liste through a simple, spatial and typological intervention; how to respect Liste’s values, how to embrace its heritage and how to radically reinvent the art fair as an open system, removed from the typical labyrinthine fair layout. We wanted to make a spatial organisation that reflects Liste as a fair: simple, pragmatic, innovative and, finally, collective. 

What is your definition of sustainable design and how do you incorporate this in your design process?

Sustainability is part of our task, and one of our evident challenges. If you take yourself seriously as an architect, sustainability is inherent to your field of operation. The fair design for Liste, for example, is based on an entirely reusable set of panels and walls. Nothing is thrown away, nothing is wasted. For every edition of the fair, the structure can be rebuilt and reorganised. It’s impossible to even think about just throwing away the used material after only one week of events – this would be criminal.  

With regard to your work, you have also repeatedly talked about an ‘economy of means’. With this in mind, how important is function to you?

Economy of means is doing as much as you can with very little, with a minimum of resources. We have always considered this crucial. Whether you call it pragmatism or durable design, this is, for us, as close to intentionality as architecture can get. It’s the core of our practice. Function is secondary here, as it is bound to change. We are primarily interested in space and type. 

Architecture aside, what are you passionate about?

Art, music and swimming.


OFFICE_photo © Frederik Vercruysse.jpg

Interview with Jano Nichele, Head of Production and Construction

Can you introduce yourself?

My name is Jano Nichele. I am 29 years old, I live in Basel and Croatia and I am a draftsman and process designer.  

What interested you in becoming the head of production and construction for Liste?

The job combines of a lot of tasks that I love to do, like organising workers, managing logistics and drawing construction plans, as well as overseeing the whole process on-site. Besides that, I am able to carry out the entire planning phase remotely, which perfectly fits my lifestyle of living between two different countries. The work with the Liste team based in Basel has always been great, and I think that having the construction and production management in one person’s hands makes complete sense for a fair the size of Liste. It was a no-brainer for me to take this job and become involved in organising the fair.

It is said that constructing Liste’s fair architecture is an event in and of itself, even though it’s something that visitors don’t see. Can you tell us what this process is like?

For me, Liste was a construction site before it was a fair: I was first introduced to it as an amazed 12-year-old, when my father was the construction manager of Liste. Then, when I was 20, I started building walls for Liste in Werkraum Warteck pp, the fair’s former location. A lot of people who started working on Liste even before me are still building up the fair today. Coming together once a year with the 50 or 60 people on the construction team – and building this fair in just one week – is something I look forward to all year. It is also a tradition that I am very proud of. We have new people every year who bring additional skills to the table, but without the knowledge of the experienced long-term workers, all of this would be much more difficult to achieve.

Also, aside from making sure that we are able to build the fair in time, for me, it is crucial to maintain the spirit that the Liste construction team has had for so many years by bringing together skilled passionate workers, most of them artists themselves, and creating a work environment in which they continue to enjoy building the fair. 

Do you look at the art exhibited at Liste?

Of course. And I do so in many different ways: first as crates that have to be handled logistically; then as objects that have to be carefully unpacked and hung by our workers; and finally, on the second or third day of the fair, I enter the hall a bit earlier than usual and take my time looking at all the artwork in peace.  

What will be the first thing you do after Liste is dismantled this year?

I will head home to my family in Croatia and spend time relaxing with them before starting to work on all the post-fair operations. This time period – when the project you have worked on for one year has passed – is always connected to some kind of surreal feeling. It takes some time to get used to it. But then the next fair is already around the corner and very soon the whole process will begin again.


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