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LABIOMISTA, The Battery - Studio Koen Vanmechelen

LABIOMISTA, literally 'mix of life', is in itself an all-encompassing art project, set up as a model for the philosophical ideas on which Koen Vanmechelen's work is based.  LABIOMISTA hosts Vanmechelen's first Open University of Diversity and related foundations.  The site is also where the artist's animals live and breed.  It is both a laboratory and a library of biocultural diversity. ​LABIOMISTA is situated at the intersection between city and countryside, industry and community.

In 2017, Koen Vanmechelen moved his studio and foundation headquarters to LABIOMISTA, situated in a former public zoo in the Belgian city of Genk.[1]

According to Vanmechelen:

This is a place that has both the physical and mental space needed for biological and cultural diversity to flourish. Its position between the domesticated and the wild helps bring new fertility to the neighbourhood, which in turn will spread to other parts of the city.  LABIOMISTA will show how various cultures can come into contact, and how humans, flora and fauna can co-exist in enriching ways that have perhaps been forgotten.  My work at LABIOMISTA navigates between and across disciplines, positioning diversity as the foundation for sustainable living and offering up an alternative to traditionally monolithic, mono-cultural approaches to development.

With support from local government as well as private stakeholders, and in collaboration with Flanders and Limburg Tourism,[2] LABIOMISTA is being developed as a public-private partnership between Vanmechelen and the city of Genk. The 24 hectare site will be open to the public summer of 2019[3].  It consists of three parts: a villa, park and studio designed by influential Swiss architect Mario Botta, each one representing a different identity: humans, nature, and the interplay and tension between them.  As visitors enter this world, a pair of stellar sea-eagles look down upon them from their cage above the studio, while the red jungle fowls, the source of all domesticated chicken life, continue to forage just meters away.  A new exploration between man and nature begins. It is a search for a new, more sustainable balance.[4][5][6][7]

Different elements[edit]


The main building of LABIOMISTA, the Battery, consists of the artist's studio, exhibition space, art collection, laboratory and archive together with an auditorium for lectures, films and conferences. A greenhouse guides the visitor physically and temporally through the ecosystem of the original chicken and leads him to the present. A pair of stellar sea-eagles look down from their cage above the studio. This building is not accessible for the main public.[8]


The villa originally belonged to a local mine owner and subsequently to the director of the former Zwartberg Zoo that was situated there. Currently being restored, this historic mansion will house the Library of Collected Knowledge (L.O.C.K.) that combines Vanmechelen's own foundations and projects: The Open University of Diversity Genk (OpUnDi), the CC®P, CosmoGolem, Walking Egg, MOUTH and COMBAT and the archives of Genk's mining past. The building will also offer accommodation for visiting scientists, scholars and curators who wish to research in the library and archives.

Cosmopolitan Culture Park[edit]

The 24-hectare site includes a public sculpture park and breeding stations for chickens of the Cosmopolitan Chicken Project and Planetary Community Chicken project. Other animals include camels, ostriches, llamas, emus, nandus and alpacas. In their relationship towards each other, both as couples and individuals, these animals form a unique ecosystem. It shows the visitor how important connections are, however unexpected they can be. Some of these animals will be part of a breeding programme to be reintroduced into the wild. In the furthest zone of the park there will be an area where wolves can roam. Through a walking tour, the visitors discover the different identities and stages of domestication and go from dedomestication to the wilderness.


The Ark, also designed by Mario Botta, serves as the main entrance to the site. The impressive gate structure, that is opened manually every day, references the former entrance of the zoo. As visitors enter through the Ark, they are faced with both the old villa and the new studio in which greenhouse and aviary raise above the human living spaces, a new exploration between man and nature begins. It is a search for a new, more sustainable balance.[9]

Lab OVO[edit]

Built as an organic open pavilion in the park, Lab Ovo visualizes integration and interconnectivity. The pavilion will provide information and experiences on the different symbiotic relationships that are included throughout the park. The pavilion also houses an experimental laboratory, an education center and a care place for the animals in the park.

Nomad Land[edit]

In the setting of the community gardens and food truck events adjacent to LABIOMISTA, NOMAD LAND becomes a place where people come together to share food, stories and experiences. In a movement of collective equality, NOMAD LAND seeks to fertilize and be fertilized with and by new ideas, triggered or inspired by visitors' personal encounters and reflections at LABIOMISTA.[10]


  1. ^ "Koen Vanmechelen verhuist naar zoo van Zwartberg". TVL - Dagelijks nieuws uit Limburg (in Dutch). Retrieved 2019-04-19.
  2. ^ "La Biomista". www.stedenbeleid.vlaanderen.be (in Dutch). Retrieved 2019-04-19.
  3. ^ "LABIOMISTA - Studio Koen Vanmechelen (opening juni 2019)". Visit Limburg (in Dutch). Retrieved 2019-04-19.
  4. ^ "koenvanmechelen | LABIOMISTA". koenvanmechelen (in Dutch). Retrieved 2019-04-19.
  5. ^ "Privacy settings". myprivacy.persgroep.net. Retrieved 2019-04-19.
  6. ^ "LABIOMISTA". Stad Genk (in Dutch). Retrieved 2019-04-19.
  7. ^ "LABIOMISTA". Stad Genk (in Dutch). Retrieved 2019-04-19.
  8. ^ "Privacy settings". myprivacy.persgroep.net. Retrieved 2019-04-19.
  9. ^ "Markant onthaalgebouw voor LABIOMISTA". www.architectura.be. Retrieved 2019-04-19.
  10. ^ "Privacy settings". myprivacy.persgroep.net. Retrieved 2019-04-19.