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20/06/2017

Do Good zorgarchitectuur

Artikel over de rol van ontwerp in zorgarchitectuur.

18/03/2017

Sprak er iemand over healing environment ?

Lees hier over de bijdrage van Charles Jencks en de postmoderne architectuur aan de ontmanteling van de kliniek.

22/02/2017

Pic Nic Architectuur

Een retroactief manifest voor Pic Nic the Streets als bijdrage aan de architectuurcultuur in België. Version Française

13/02/2017

Wraak op de commons

Een artikel over het nakende einde voor Agrocité en de toekomst voor architectuur onder zelfbeheer.

03/02/2017

Architectuur van de schaamteplek

Wie grip wil krijgen op de problemen van in psychiatrische ziekenhuizen, begint bij het ontwerp van de isolatiekamer.

22/12/2016

Van Utopia naar Wuustwezel

Er zijn weinig termen die zo’n beladen betekenis hebben in de architectuurgeschiedenis als utopie. Version Français

21/12/2016

Relational Architecture

Read about the production proces of the Kanunnik Petrus Jozef Triest Square in the Psychiatric Centre Caritas, Melle. Article in DutchEnglish / French

12/12/2016

Hoeveel samenwerking kan architectuur verdragen?

Artikel over de tentoonstelling 'Ensembles. Architectuur en Ambachtschap' in deSingel en Vlaams Architectuurinstituut.

15/10/2016

Bouwstenen voor het psychiatrisch centrum van de toekomst

Lees meer over de visieontwikkeling rond het psychiatrisch centrum van de toekomst gepubliceerd in Psyche.

03/10/2016

Eco-politiek in Brussel: Bas Smets en de Brussels Urban Landscape Biennial

Artikel over het nut en nadeel van landschapsarchitectuur als instrument voor regionale ontwikkeling in Brussel.

28/09/2016

Architectuur vol van verlangen

Artikel naar aanleiding van de opening van het Kanunnik Petrus Jozef Triest Plein in Melle.

26/09/2016

(Re)Politicize!

Proud to present the A+261 issue on architecture and politics - Dutch and French edition.

21/09/2016

Architectuur met schaduw

De 20ste eeuw baarde vele duivelspacten tussen architectuur en politiek. Opvallend genoeg wordt de architectuur van het Italiaanse fascisme tot op vandaag geprezen omwille van haar abstracte vormentaal. Dergelijke rehabilitatie is de architectuur van het Derde Rijk nooit te beurt gevallen. België heeft zo zijn eigen kleine trauma in de relatie met de politiek.

24/06/2016

Ingebedde architecten

Lees meer over de architectuur van oorlog en vrede

07/06/2016

Vakmannen aan het front

Een recensie over de bijdrage van Bravoure in de Architectuurbiennale van Venetie.

04/06/2016

Toiletemmers in Werelderfgoed

Er is iets curieus met de inrichting van de gevangenis van Merksplas, waar enkele weken geleden een opstand uitbrak. De geschiedenis van de site reflecteert een utopisch beeld van de gevangenis van de toekomst, de manier waarop omgegaan wordt met die geschiedenis symboliseert dan weer de gemiste kansen.

04/12/2015

FPC Gent: geen markt, geen gevangenis

De opening van het Forensisch Psychiatrisch Centrum in Gent zorgt na één jaar werking voor een grote opluchting - zelfs bij voormalige critici. De juiste vraag is niet of aanvankelijke bezorgheid terecht was, maar wel of de opluchting niet een beetje voorbarig is? 


28/10/2015

Het penitentiair verdriet van België

In de bouw van het gevangenisdorp Haren vormen de lokale en regionale overheid samen front met de actiegroepen tegen de federale overheid - of toch niet? Hoe kunnen we de knoop tussen activisme en politiek ontwarren?

23/10/2015

Een psychiatrisch centrum bouwen we samen

Ook architectuur heeft zijn plaats op de Vlaamse Hersteldagen. Doe mee op 18 november in de Vooruit.

01/09/2015

Eindelijk een kennisplatform voor humane gevangenisarchitectuur

De website www.prisongear.be presenteert het onderzoek naar een humane gevangenisarchitectuur.

07/04/2015

Ontmanteling van de psychiatrische kliniek

Lees de gevalstudies over zorgarchitectuur in Vlaanderen gepubliceerd in Psyche

22/10/2014

Een sterke leefomgeving begint met ruimteregie

Wat deelt een onafgewerkte verkeersinfrastructuur in Godsheide, een vervallen vierkantshoeve in Grote Spouwen, een gesloten mijnkatedraal in de Eisdense Tuiwijk en een geplande gevangenis op Domein Riegersvliet?


21/08/2014

Wie is er bang van het Bouwmeestercollege?

Iedereen lijkt het roerend eens dat de Vlaamse architectuur zonder de Bouwmeester overgeleverd is aan de wetten van de markt en de willekeur van het politieke bedrijf. Lees de opinie 'De Bouwmeester en de onheilsprofeten'.

20/12/2013

A humane prison is coming to your neighbourhood

As part of the Conflict & Design Triennial the knowledge platform Prison Gear presents design studies that pave the way for a humane prison in Leopoldsburg, Belgium.

16/12/2013

Een humane gevangenis komt naar je toe

Als onderdeel van de Conflict & Design Triënnale presenteert Prison Gear twee visieontwerpen voor de toekomstige gevangenis op het militaire domein Reigersvliet in Leopoldsburg.

09/10/2013

Limburg City / Stad Limburg

Read the memorandum of the Limburg Europa Workshop / Lees de projectnota van Atelier Limburg Europa

15/09/2013

The dismantling of the psychiatric clinic

Read the case studies on care architecture in Flanders

21/08/2013

Wat is ontwerpend onderzoek?

Drie vragen over ontwerpend onderzoek, drie antwoorden vanuit de Noorderkempen.

10/04/2013

Heeft een gemeenplaats ook een gemene waarde ?

Commentaarstuk bij het Architectuurboek n° 10: Radicale Gemeenplaatsen - Europese architectuur uit Vlaanderen

03/02/2013

Is onzichtbare psychiatrische zorg mogelijk?

Review van de opstart Pilootprojecten Zorg door de Vlaams Bouwmeester

06/11/2012

Limburg heeft ambitie / Limburg has ambition

Presentatie van de Startnota Provinciaal Bouwmeester Limburg / Presentation Initial Memo Limburg Government Architect

12/10/2012

Hoeveel vernieuwing kan de gevangenis verdragen ?

Lees hoe de modernisatie van de gevangenisarchitectuur in handen van Stéphane Beel begon en eindige bij het Ducpétiaux-model.

12/07/2012

San Gimignano aan de Zenne

Lees de column naar aanleiding van de Keukentoren van XDGA

11/04/2012

Sociaal-realisme of zelfcensuur

Met Jonas Staal schreef BAVO een pleidooi voor een nieuw sociaal-realisme in de kunst. Sociaal-realisme is broodnodig in het tijdperk van de hysterische reproductie.

21/02/2012

Nu ook een schreeuw om architectuur!

Niet occupy-en, maar de gevestigde orde verleiden om in crisistijden te investeren in leuke projecten. Lees hier meer over de Studio for Unsollicited Architecture.

20/01/2012

Gesloten architectuur is ook humaan

Lees meer over Fleur Agema's gevangenismodel

21/11/2011

Waarom kunstenaars niet fascistisch genoeg zijn

Lees het artikel in het decembernummer van Rekto:Verso.

12/09/2011

De Culturele Elite

Lees de bijdrage.

29/08/2011

Artist Participation in South Africa

The international PR campaign to showcase Rotterdam's robust policy on artist participation is now also tapping into the emerging African art markets.

17/06/2011

Denkverbod op liberale kunst

Column over de stellingenoorlog naar aanleiding van de aangekondigde bezuinigingen in de cultuursector.

07/06/2011

Maak liberaal kunstbeleid liberaal

Lees BAVO's advies aan staatssecretaris Zijlstra met betrekking tot de noodgedwongen keuzen die de cultuursector in Nederland te wachten staat.

18/03/2011

International promotion campaign of the Office for Artist Participation kicks off

The City of Edinburgh will be the first to host an international promotion event of Rotterdam's innovative cultural policies for enforcing the participation of artists in heightening a city's competitiveness and securing social peace on the local level.

28/02/2011

Culture and Contestation

The essay 'Neo-Liberalism with Dutch Characteristics: The Big Fix-Up of the Netherlands and the Practice of Embedded Cultural Activism' is published in the book volume 'Culture and Contestation in the New Century'.

19/01/2011

Art and Activism

BAVO's essay 'Artists... one more effort to be really political!' is published in the volume 'Art and Activism in the age of Globalisation'.

20/10/2010

Boek verschenen: Too Active To Act

Het boek biedt een kritische analyse van de maatschappelijke betrokkenheid van culturele actoren in Nederland in de afgelopen tien jaar.

OPPOSITIONAL ARCHITECTURE

A Lesson in Added Architectural Value

 

(Download pdf)

The 51N4E architectural firm carried out the conversion of the head office of the Flemish Christian Democratic Party (CD&V) in Wetstraat in Brussels. This design assignment may, at first sight, hardly seem to be front-page news — several head offices are housed in Wetstraat — but the result is nevertheless quite striking. Not least because of its unusual name, Wet89, which refers only to the street and the house number and appears to have little to do with its political occupants. Its high-class design also initially distances itself from any explicit references to the ideology and power concentrated within these offices. What is more, the schedule of requirements for this party head office has been extended to include extra space for related organisations and above all a place for public eating and drinking: the ‘Wereldsalon’ (world lounge).

By renovating the worn-out and outdated party offices in Wetstraat, the CD&V now occupies an exemplary position in the centre of national and European power. Against the background of the monotonous office façades that adorn this street, and the never-ending flow of traffic it has to cope with every day, Wet89 is striking for its elegant lightness and openness. The old, low concrete structure — originally considered a reason to demolish the whole building — turned out to be no obstacle to the design of stylish open-plan offices bathed in generous natural light. The soulless and anonymous location itself — initially seen as a reason for moving — turned out to possess numerous possibilities for the design of a warm home base for the party and a unique urban location from which to watch the life of the city.

A clear organisational structure was applied to the office building, rising gradually to the chairman’s office on the top floor. The intention was to make the sections of the party visible, even in the level of finish. The chairman’s floor also houses the offices of his immediate staff, an agreeable closed waiting room and the stately meeting room for the heads of the party. It is also striking that a lounge and a bedroom are included like a film set in the chairman’s office. Equally intriguing is the ingenious circuit of revolving doors that eases diplomatic consultation at the highest level. Below the chairman’s floor are three floors of office, meeting and library rooms for the various departments and administrative sections. Although the open-plan offices create the best possible atmosphere for collaboration and meeting, ceiling-high cabinets provide appropriate visual screening and glass panels give acoustic separation. The first few floors are let out to related organisations.

The exception to the rule is the Wereldsalon, which is the place on the ground floor, with its entrance on the left of the façade, that defines all the rest. The visibility and accessibility of this independently run breakfast, lunch and tea room spontaneously make it a unique vestibule to the head office. The relatively small area of the café is compensated by a striking, curved finish to the ceiling that extends over two storeys. The actual reception desk is hidden away slightly to the right of the café, in a continuation of the vivid orange, almost red, hallway that leads to the lifts, staircase, press room and rear building. The rear building also contains the underground car park and the large conference room. The press room and the rear building were not included in the major renovation, but were just tidied up a little. An internal passage from the Wereldsalon to the press room makes the informal meeting of press and party members more relaxed.

Wet89 displays, in every aspect, a great awareness of the social impact of building projects. For instance, the client opted for a sustainable approach to this barely forty-year-old office building by renovating the façade and re-using the concrete structure, in spite of several inconveniencies this entailed. Attention has also emphatically been paid to the part architecture plays in the mediation of established social relationships. The Wereldsalon in particular turns out to be a unique meeting point where staff, representatives and party members gather and stay put. Apart from this, it is also striking that Wet89 benefits not only from the advantages of its location in Wetstraat — mainly when it comes to mobility, the proximity of the institutions and clear visibility — but also fully participates in the life of the city. With this Wereldsalon, Wet89 big-heartedly gives an extra attraction back to Wetstraat that is greatly enjoyed by the many visitors from the neighbourhood.

The integration of concerns that lie beyond the scope of the actual assignment (the creation of offices with the necessary floor area) is the natural consequence of the architectural reflex that governs the client’s actions. The then chairman of the party, Stefaan De Clerck, had already proposed giving priority to the new party building at the same time as the renewal of the party and the change of name. These intentions were adopted under the chairmanship of Yves Leterme and linked to the formation of a cartel with the Flemish nationalist party N-VA. Ultimately it was under the chairmanship of Jo Vandeurzen that it was decided to convert rather than build something new. The architectural renewal of the party was entrusted entirely to the general secretary, Pieter Demeester and — through the intercession of the then Flemish Government Architect Bob Van Reeth and Jan Bruggemans — the then promising Brussels architectural firm 51N4E. These architects were already involved in the search for a new building that was intended to bring the party closer to the average Flemish voter. They initially had their eyes on a building in the then still dilapidated Ravenstein Arcade, which is where the idea arose of including a bar in the schedule of requirements for the offices.

The CD&V is not the only political party to seek architectural quality. In 2003, the French-language socialist party (the PS), also called in Base Design together with the Lhoas & Lhoas architectural firm from Brussels for the renewal of its head office. The  1964 modernist building by Maxime Brunfaut was given an extra red tint to make it even more of a showcase for the party. The ground floor was also expressly arranged as a platform for (press) conferences with red partitions and man-sized party logos. Lhoas & Lhoas’ architectural design is in this way clearly conceived as an instrument of benefit to the media interests of the PS. At Wet89, by contrast, the architectural quality itself is the main concern and the appeal of the party is more of a pleasing extra. All the designers’ attention is focused on the creation of a stylish work environment whose daily users feel good, and not on the design of propaganda.

Simply giving priority to architectural quality rather than the ideological needs and desires of the client solves the usual tension between a building’s use value and its logo value. If too much attention is paid to the appeal of a building, this is usually at the expense of its daily use. Wet89 is able to perfectly side-step any discrepancy by making the high-level user-quality of the building itself the basis of its mediagenic allure. The complete absence of propaganda in its design (colour, logos, banners and cheap slogans) appears to break the ice for all its users. After all, the negative connotations usually attached to the head office of a party in power are here swept aside by the appreciation of the building. Both habitués and outsiders identify Wet89 as a hospitable place with cooperation at its heart, rather than as an inaccessible bulwark that watches over ideological purity and distributes mandates.

So in the first place this renewed head office aims to appeal within party ranks. This is logical, since it is of far greater advantage to a political party to convince its own members of its credibility than to attract the attention of the anonymous and often distracted passer-by in the street. Architectural quality is a suitable means to this end, because it wins people over in their everyday involvement and well-being. This sort of spontaneous identification is something an ideological discourse is incapable of and which absolutely cannot be achieved by a display of power. In this way, at Wet89 we see the added political value of purely architectural interventions. Openness was of primary importance in the design of the office floors and the Wereldsalon was intended to be a public place — these are two of today’s architects’ hobby-horses.

The architectural quality of Wet89 would be impossible without a client who turns out to be able to transcend immediate ideological preferences and stylistic features. This attitude is usually called good clientship. The crucial thing is that the architect is given the elbowroom needed to guarantee the architectural quality of the design. After all, the more the political logic in the design fades into the background, and the architectural quality comes to the fore, the more added political value is generated. In the design for Wet89, the client very much respected the architect’s independence by picking up the complaints made by the staff, but not necessarily responding to them. Participation was also limited to one single gathering. It turned out to be essential to insulate the architect, to avoid party colours and logos creeping into the design, the usual partitions breaking up the open-plan offices into cubicles and also the public Wereldsalon being watered down into the obligatory political talking shop. In the design for Wet89, the client combines exceptional respect for the independence of the architecture with a watchful handling of the added value that arose out of it.

Such an exemplary attitude on the part of the client is, however, not possible if it is not accompanied by something one might call ‘good architectship’. While, regarding the design, the client censors himself in favour of the architect, for the architect it is equally essential to be aware of the implicit preconditions and expectations that are transferred into the design assignment. 51N4E fully appreciated the broadening of CD&V’s horizons by taking very literally the aim of creating an open house and at the same time distancing themselves sufficiently from ideologically tinged motives. The businesslike design of the offices and the addition of a neutral lunch bar responded well to the CD&V quest for confidence and credibility, both within the party and for the outside world. Although these expectations cannot simply be put into words in a schedule of requirements, with hindsight they turn out to be an essential part of the desire a new party head office.

So the unique architectural quality of Wet89 does not necessarily emerge from any ideological kinship between architect and client — this matter is not touched upon. What is clear, however, is the mutual respect for the inherent individual logic characteristic of the architectural and of the political discipline. In this respect, 51N4E expressly presented itself as a provider of identity, who hands the client an instrument without worrying about the way the client uses it. What 51N4E is concerned with here is injecting this neutral conversion with a personal fascination for urban space and much less the political gain the client draws from it. On its side, the CD&V, as a client, radiates complete confidence in the power of architectural and spatial quality. After all, what architecture gives the client is a contribution not so much to the portrayal of its familiar political identity, but to keeping alive the vital process of renewal and expansion. So the result of this positive cooperation will never be a feeble compromise — in this case between the architectural concept and the political context. What arises is a win-win situation where the client and the architect satisfy their mutual interests and fascinations by stimulating each other to go to the extreme, each within their own discipline.

 

References

Essay published in: Katrien Vandermarliere (ed.), The specific and the singular: Architecture in Flanders, Flemish Architecture Institute, Antwerp 2010. (www.vai.be)

Translated by: Gregory Ball