The Mechelen Hundred

Portraits of a city's people, today

Nestled between Brussels and Antwerp, Mechelen has often been overshadowed by its larger neighbours. Yet teaming up with the City of Mechelen, our line-up of 100 of the city’s most prominent people, places and projects proves the extent of its potential. From artists and creatives to critical thinkers and fighters, these are the powerhouses driving Mechelen forward one step at a time.

Michael Bonne

Michael Bonne

Artisanal woodworker (1985)

Can you describe what you do?

I started Studio Swelvet together with my longtime friend Kevin Brondel. We met each other while doing our post-graduate in furniture design, and over the years we have collaborated in different enterprises. In our design projects, we try to focus on sustainability. We think it is part of our job to show our clients there are sustainable solutions in design and construction even when working on a budget. For example: we were just commissioned by the City of Mechelen to build a collection of rocking horses, and the wood we use is recycled from the local sluice gate in Muizen. We recently moved our workshop to the co-working space Wagenoord.

I grew up in Leuven, but my wife and I bought a place just outside the city centre a couple of years ago. We are surrounded by nature, which is a big plus for us and for our dog.

How do you perceive Mechelen? In your view, what kind of city is it? Its people, its cultural landscape, its vibe? How does it compare to other, similarly-sized cities?

There are a lot of young people moving to Mechelen, but even more important is the young spirit that has pervaded the city. There is a lot of support for entrepreneurs and initiative, both from the community and the local government. This means a lot of projects are able to be realised

How has Mechelen contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?

Actually, the training I had in furniture design is unique in Belgium, and of course there is a historical tradition of furniture builders in Mechelen. This has somewhat diminished in recent years, but it feels nice to be a part of that heritage. When we were looking for a place to establish our workshop, the city council really helped us out and offered us an abandoned building we could use.

On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city? What could it do better?

‘Better’ is the enemy of ‘good’, of course there’s always room for improvement. There is still a part of the Dyle that runs through the city that could use an upgrade. But then again, this is already happening near the Thomas More university, so I guess eventually they’ll get around to it.

To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Mechelen?

I’m not much of an inner city person, so my recommendations tend to be outside of the centre. You need to go for a walk in the Mechelse Broek, or in the woods around the Vrijbroekspark. The park itself is beautifully maintained of course, but there are many hidden spots of green you can discover around it.

As far as food and drinks are concerned, look no further than the restaurant right here at Wagenoord. In the spirit of this place, they go for honest food.

Can you talk to us about a local legend, a neighbourhood anecdote or urban myth that, to you, encapsulates the spirit of the city?

A local story that I never completely understood, is the ‘Opsinjoorke’. If I’m not mistaken, it’s a tiny drunkard who hit his wife, something like that? I don’t see why you’d choose a symbol like that for your city.