Winter garden of the KAAI building, Nieuw Zuid, designed by Atelier Kempe Thill, image is courtesy of Triple Living

Bernd Upmeyer spoke with Belgian “client”, real estate developer and former interior designer Stefan Paeleman, who is currently developing the 320,000m², so-called “Nieuw Zuid” site in Antwerp, Belgium. Born in Ghent, Belgium, Paeleman started his career as an interior designer and had his own office for 15 years, before he switched sides and joined “Triple Living” alongside Jeff Cavens in 2013, becoming a real estate developer. He is also the manager of “Skyline Europe”, another Belgium-based real estate company. The interview took place via Skype on March 2, 2018.

From Interior Designer to Project Developer and Client

Bernd Upmeyer: Before becoming a real estate developer and a “client” you were trained as an interior designer and had your own office for 15 years. Why did you switch sides and what are you doing now exactly?
Stefan Paeleman: Actually, when I was an interior designer, we already had an office that was involved in architecture in a wider sense. Triple Living is owned by two families – Cavens and Paeleman – and since the company is quite big, in terms of Belgian scale, it made sense for me to go into this real estate development business as it gave me a lot of opportunities for the future. But before getting into something with bigger responsibilities I wanted to have a business of my own. That is why I started the interior design office. It was part of the ambition I had, and I am glad to have done it because it gave me a lot of experience that I can use in what I am doing now. Of course, speaking from this side now, the developer’s side, I am even more preoccupied with legislation, with economics, with several things that are related to the real estate world, but at the same time my interest at the end product’s quality has remained the same and even grows more over time – as it is also an integral part of Triple Living’s identity, where the end product is of high significance and we are constantly aiming for good quality projects.

BU: And the Cavens and Paeleman families were already involved in real estate before you were an interior designer?
SP: In fact our families have been in the real estate business for more than 40 years, while I have been personally involved for about 10 years now.

BU: Besides the family involvement in the world of real estate and the chance to gain bigger responsibilities, were there any other reasons that led you to switch professions?
SP: The things that I can do now, compared to what I did as an interior designer, have more relevance. And this relevance is not only about esthetics. With the “Nieuw Zuid” project in Antwerp, Belgium, we are developing, for example, around 2500 housing units. As a developer we‘re aiming for high standards on durability, on an ecological base but also in a wider sense. I find it interesting thinking and discussing about neighbourhoods that function for the people that finally end up living or working there…

… the complete interview was published in MONU #28 on the topic of Client-shaped Urbanism on April 16, 2018.

Title: Not All about Beauty
Project: Interview with Stefan Paeleman
Date: March 2018
Type: Commissioned interview
Topic: Client-shaped Urbanism
Organizer: MONU
Status: Published
Publications: MONU #28, P. 89-95
Interviewer: Bernd Upmeyer