CPA_Musterseiten

JovisVerlag

CELEBRATING PUBLIC

ARCHITECTURE

Buildings from the Open Call

in Flanders 2000–21

FLORIAN HEILMEYER (ED.)

Architecture


4 THE FIRST TWENTY YEARS:

THE OPEN CALL IN FLANDERS

by FLORIAN HEILMEYER

PROJECTS #1—18

8 #1 Social Housing in Wulpen

Puls Architecten

10 #2 Town Hall in Diksmuide

ono architectuur and Callebaut Architecten

14 #3 Care Home in Ostend

Bovenbouw Architectuur

18 #4 Crematorium in Ostend

OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen

20 #5 Social Housing in Gistel

Witherford Watson Mann Architects

24 #6 Primary School in Zarren

FELT Architecture & Design

26 #7 Town Hall in Menen

noAarchitecten

28 #8 City Library in Blankenberge

Sergison Bates Architects

30 #9 Pedestrian Bridge in Knokke-Heist

Ney & Partners

34 #10 Primary School in Bruges

Tom Thys Architecten and Carton123 Architecten

38 #11 Administrative Center in Oostkamp

Carlos Arroyo Architects

42 #12 School in Ruiselede

Hootsmans Architectuurbureau

44 #13 Crematorium in Kortrijk

Eduardo Souto de Moura and SumProject

46 #14 Sports Center in Sint-Jan-in-Eremo

Coussée & Goris Architecten

50 #15 Care Home in Nevele

51N4E

52 #16 Administrative Center in Deinze

Tony Fretton Architects

54 #17 Art Academies in Deinze

Studio Lens°Ass and WIT Architecten

56 #18 Theater and Cultural Center in Deinze

TRANS architectuur | stedenbouw and V+

61 THE OPEN CALL AND THE

WONDER YEARS OF FLEMISH

ARCHITECTURE

by FLORIAN HEILMEYER

PROJECTS #19—38

78 #19 University Library in Ghent

Robbrecht en Daem Architecten

82 #20 City Library in Ghent

Coussée & Goris Architecten and

RCR Aranda Pigem Vilalta Arquitectes

86 #21 Care Home in Oudenaarde

noAarchitecten

88 #22 Police Station in Brakel

ORG Permanent Modernity

90 #23 Community Center in Moorsel

De Kort Van Schaik and Sophie Van Noten Architect

94 #24 City Library in Dendermonde

BOB361 Architects

96 #25 Community Center in Bornem

MORGEN Architectuur

98 #26 Cemetery in Antwerp

AKB_architectuur Kristoffel Boghaert

102 #27 Library, Police Station and Academy in Wilrijk

Baumschlager Eberle Architekten

104 #28 Elite Sports School in Antwerp

Compagnie-O

108 #29 Province of Antwerp Headquarters

xdga Xaveer de Geyter Architects

112 #30 Master Plan IGLO in Antwerp

Tractebel

116 #31 Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp

KAAN Architecten

120 #32 School Campus in Antwerp

Stéphane Beel Architecten

122 #33 Public Square in Antwerp

Studio Associato Bernardo Secchi Paola Viganò

124 #34 Concert Hall in Antwerp

SimpsonHaugh Architects

128 #35 Master Plan Falconplein in Antwerp

Rapp+Rapp and West 8

130 #36 Master Plan Scheldekaaien in Antwerp

PROAP Estudos e Projectos de Arquitectura

Paisagista and WIT Architecten

132 #37 Sluice Operating Post in the Antwerp Harbor

Goldsmith.Company

134 #38 Port Authority Headquarters in Antwerp

Zaha Hadid Architects


139 THE OPEN CALL: SEARCHING

FOR QUALITY IN A JOINT

PROCESS

by ANNE MALLIET

PROJECTS #39—51

146 #39 Administrative Center in Brasschaat

Compagnie-O

148 #40 Kindergarten and Parks Maintenance Depot

51N4E

152 #41 School for Secondary Education in Merksem

HUB

154 #42 Master Plan for the Care Sector in Borgerhout

Collectief Noord

158 #43 School Campus in Deurne

aaa—architectuuratelier ambiorix

160 #44 Social Housing in Zandhoven

Happel Cornelisse Verhoeven

162 #45 Social Housing in Berlaar

Van Belle & Medina Architects

164 #46 Primary School in Rumst

Bovenbouw Architectuur

166 #47 Two Bridges in Mechelen

Dietmar Feichtinger Architects

168 #48 Primary School in Mechelen

Happel Cornelisse Verhoeven

170 #49 Holocaust Museum in Mechelen

awg architecten

172 #50 City Library in Mechelen

Korteknie Stuhlmacher Architecten

176 #51 School Campus in Mechelen

Label architecture

194 #56 Two Reception Areas for the

Botanical Garden in Meise

NU architectuuratelier

196 #57 Care Home in Machelen

Korteknie Stuhlmacher Architecten

198 #58 Agricultural School in Leuven

OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen

202 #59 Public Park and Bike Highway in Leuven

Artgineering and H+N+S Landscape Architects

204 #60 Crematorium in Holsbeek

Coussée & Goris Architecten and

RCR Aranda Pigem Vilalta Arquitectes

206 #61 Primary School in Tienen

B-ILD Architects

208 #62 Care Home in Oosterlo

NU architectuuratelier

212 #63 Master Plan and Community

Center in Kasterlee

Dierendonckblancke architecten

216 #64 Animal Campus in Lommel

Collectief Noord

218 #65 Law Faculty for the University in Hasselt

noAarchitecten

222 #66 Master Plan for a Care Campus

in Genk and Zonhoven

Dierendonckblancke architecten

224 #67 Municipal Sports Hall in Genk

BEL Architects

228 #68 Cultural Center in Bocholt

ono architectuur

232 #69 School Campus in Riemst

Dierendonckblancke architecten

234 #70 Bridge and Bunker Museum in Vroenhoven

Ney & Partners

179 THE OPEN CALL

IN 10 STEPS

PROJECTS #52—70

184 #52 Academy in Dilbeek

Carlos Arroyo Architects

188 #53 Water Silo in Beersel

BEL Architects and Bureau d’Études Weinand

190 #54 School Campus in Brussels

BOGDAN & VAN BROECK

192 #55 Kindergarten in Etterbeek

evr-architecten

238 THE OPEN CALL AS A

DRIVING FORCE FOR

ARCHITECTURE CULTURE

by ERIK WIEËRS

APPENDIX

242 Architects A—Z

253 Photographers A—Z

255 Photo Credits

256 Colophon


THE FIRST TWENTY YEARS:

THE OPEN CALL IN FLANDERS

by FLORIAN HEILMEYER

The Open Call is unique in Europe. It is a very specific type of architectural

competition invented by the first Flemish Government Architect,

bOb Van Reeth, and it has been in practice in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking

North of Belgium, since 2000. It is tailored for all kinds of public

architecture commissions from large-scale urban master plans to individual

buildings. Every department of the Flemish government and all

municipalities can ask the team of the Flemish Government Architect for

its consultation on any building project. Together, the public principal

and the Government Architect then work on the brief for an Open Call,

inviting national and international architects to apply for the task.

It is important to state that the Open Call has been incredibly

productive over the past two decades since its inception. At the time of

writing—in May 2021—699 public building commissions have been published

for 333 different commissioners from all over Flanders, ranging

from new buildings to transformations and restorations, from schools

and kindergartens to museums and town halls, concert halls, office buildings,

public parks, and urban master plans. More than 4,500 offices

applied in over 5,000 different combinations. And while 209 commissions

were cancelled or re-started at some point for various reasons, a

total of 331 projects have been successfully completed. These are impressive

numbers. Even more impressive is the quality and imaginativeness

of many of the projects.

On the occasion of the twentieth birthday of the Open Call, it

seems appropriate to celebrate the quality of public architecture in Flanders—and

to look at what other countries might learn from this very

specific procedure. This book focuses on the built output of the Open

Call, presenting a selection of buildings or master plans that have

resulted from Open Calls. The selection was made in a collaboration

between the team of the Flemish Government Architect, the Flanders

Architecture Institute (VAi), ovis Publishers, and myself as the editor.

These were tough decisions that took months to resolve, mostly due to

the abundance of interesting projects. We didn’t have a specific number

of projects in mind, but since we intended to show a range of different

public projects—taking into account the differing type and scale of

buildings, regional distribution, a certain representation of national

and international architecture offices, as well as different principals

4

FLORIAN HEILMEYER


from the various governmental departments—we ended up with seventy.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to present all the projects that deserve

to be shown, so we encourage readers to explore the website of the Flemish

Government Architect, where all Open Calls are well documented

and updated regularly: www.vlaamsbouwmeester.be/en/instruments/

open-call.

For this book, we’ve sorted the projects into a roughly geographical

sequence, going from Flanders’ west coast landwards until we reach

the Belgian-Dutch border in the east. You can see it as an easy stroll

through the beautiful, versatile, and copious landscapes of contemporary

Flemish public architecture.

THE FIRST TWENTY YEARS: THE OPEN CALL IN FLANDERS

5


0 1 2

5m

JUST REVERSE THE BUILDING: Restoration, renovation,

and reorganization of the historic town hall and courtyard in

Diksmuide

Architects: ono architectuur and Callebaut Architecten (restoration); Commissioner: Stadsbestuur Diksmuide.

Open Call 1816; Address Grote Markt 6, 8600 Diksmuide; Date 2009–16; Budget 5.8 mil. Euro; Size 2,800 sqm;

Award Prijs Wivina Demeester 2016

The eclectic town hall of Diksmuide, a

city of about 16,000 inhabitants near

the Flemish coast, dates from 1925 and

is listed as a monument. With its elaborate

front and the slender bell tower

looming high above the historic marketplace,

the city sees the building as one

of its main “business cards.” However,

this business card was in dire need of

modernization. The rooms were not

fit for many functions and the building

lacked energy-efficiency as well as clear

routing and wheelchair accessibility.

The proposal of ono architectuur solved

this by entirely reversing the building’s

organization. The main entrance is

no longer through the meticulously

restored front façade, but via the beautiful,

quiet courtyard at the back. In

the historic façade, five former window

openings have been enlarged to

become an open arcade that opens the

building towards the courtyard. An

extremely light construction of thin

metal profiles and glass creates a new

entry zone, welcoming, warm and transparent.

A long, inclined concrete ramp

runs around the courtyard, forming a

protective wall while also gracefully

granting accessibility. From being an

almost unused space, the courtyard

now forms an intimate little square and

lively meeting zone. It is also connected

to the historic market square in front

of the Stadhuis via a public passage

between city hall and the tourist agency.

In the middle of the new courtyard, a

square patio guides visitors and staff

down into the historic basement, which

houses the art archive—the so-called

Wunderkammer—and quiet reading

rooms for research and study. All the historic

interiors, including a representative

entry hall, Gothic Hall, and the wedding

room, were given a sober aura thanks to

clear leveling and routing, rethinking

the interior room by room and subtle

but very precise restoration work.

10 #2 TOWN HALL IN DIKSMUIDE


#2 TOWN HALL IN DIKSMUIDE

11


16 #3 CARE HOME IN OSTEND


#3 CARE HOME IN OSTEND

17


COMPLETING THE BLOCK: Restoration, reorganization,

and new infill building for the historic town hall in Menen

Architects: noAarchitecten; Commissioner: Stadsbestuur Menen. Open Call 0210; Address Grote Markt 1, 8930 Menen;

Date 2002–12; Budget 6.25 mil. Euro; Size 4,100 sqm

The town hall of Menen is a listed building

block between two market squares

in the very city center. The rectangular

block consists of a historic belfry, the

town hall dating from the late eighteenth

century, a small enclosed courtyard, and

a nineteenth-century extension featuring

shops combined with dwellings above.

Although the complex gave the impression

of a coherent whole featuring monumental

façades, inside it was a labyrinth

in need of a thorough reorganization.

Its listed status required sensitivity to

the historical value of each of the elements

and layers from different eras.

The design by noAarchitecten focuses on

a clear definition and restoration of the

original buildings. They introduce two

autonomous, strong structures: a large,

two-story entrance hall with the council

chamber above, and a new circulation

structure placed in the former garden.

Like a light shelf, this structure of glass

and white steel gives access to all parts

of the complex, mediating between the

differing floor heights of the original

buildings, and bringing light into the

heart of the complex. The slenderness

and transparency of the added structure

gives its inside spaces an outdoor feeling

and strongly improves the orientation

of both visitors and staff. The new

entrance hall, however, is defined by a

concrete structure, subtly inserted into

the former historic courtyard. It features

square columns and a visible beam

structure that lies above the existing

space like a secondary layer. The design

sends a subtle but powerful message

that something has been done, yet

again, in a complex that has seen many

changes over the centuries but remains

a unified entity, perhaps now more

strongly tied together than ever before.

26 #7 TOWN HALL IN MENEN


#7 TOWN HALL IN MENEN

27


A NEW BACKBONE FOR THE OLD SCHOOL: Transformation

of a listed school building to city library in

Blankenberge

Architects: Sergison Bates Architects; Commissioner: Stadsbestuur Blankenberge in association with Dexia Bank NV.

Open Call 0508; Address Onderwijsstraat 17, 8370 Blankenberge; Date 2003–11; Budget 5.6 mil. Euro; Size 4,127 sqm

The Open Call for a new library in

the city of Blankenberge included the

restoration and conversion of a former

historic school building listed as a monument.

Parts of the building date back

to 1883, yet the project brief demanded

that just two sides of the historic façade

and the roof should be preserved. Consequently,

all the proposals removed

everything else and placed a new building

behind the two façades and under the

old roof—all except for Sergison Bates.

The British architects saw that the brief

required a variety of rooms dedicated

to a broad range of activities, and they

understood that the old building offered

just that: a set of different rooms of

varying atmospheres. Additionally, the

architects believed that the memories

contained in these spaces should be

preserved. So they added two small

annexes on each end of the building and

attached a new circulation arcade on the

rear side which had been in an incredibly

bad state of repair, facing a large

parking lot. In this way, the renovation

became like surgery: the addition on

the rear acts like a new spine, achieved

in one surprisingly easy operation—a

spine that offers a system of circulation

with self-explanatory connections

between the old spaces. This intelligent

proposal made it possible to preserve

most of the historic school building

while not compromising in designing a

good new library within the old walls.

“Without the Open Call, we probably wouldn’t be working

in Belgium. After the competition for Blankenberge,

we participated in many Open Calls and won seven more.

We’re indebted to a competition structure that has

created so many opportunities for us.”

MARINA ALDROVANDI, Sergison Bates Architects

28

#8 CITY LIBRARY IN BLANKENBERGE


#8 CITY LIBRARY IN BLANKENBERGE

29


PL.

Sk.

N.U

LET THE LIGHTS GUIDE YOU: Transformation of

a chapel into a school in Ruiselede

Architects: Hootsmans Architectuurbureau; Commissioner: Vlaamse overheid, Welzijn, Volksgezondheid

en Gezin, Agentschap Fonds Jongerenwelzijn, Afdeling Gemeenschapsinstellingen. Open Call 1401;

Address Bruggesteenweg 130, 8755 Ruiselede; Date 2007–14; Budget 2.7 mil. Euro; Size 1,500 sqm

De Zande is a monumental complex

from the nineteenth century, originally a

sugar factory, then used as a reformatory.

In the twentieth century it was turned

into a juvenile detention center. To

the northeast, next to the sports fields,

stands a large chapel from 1865, which

the institution wanted to reuse as its new

school building with twelve classrooms,

workshops, a fitness space, offices and a

separate teachers’ room. Given the fact

that all façades of the listed building had

recently been carefully restored, this

was an enormous spatial wish list. Plus,

if possible, the institution wanted to

preserve the uninterrupted experience of

the chapel’s main space.

The Dutch architects of Rob Hootsmans

came up with a surprising solution.

They fitted all rooms for fitness and

workshops in the cellar, then placed a

two-story structure in the main space for

all the classrooms, more or less filling up

the chapel. At first the client wanted to

refuse the proposal for this reason, but

was intrigued by the strange system of

oval windows in walls and floors. Their

forms imitate the spots of sunlight that

were cast into the chapel on the longest

and the shortest days of the year, June

21 and December 22 respectively. So

although you can no longer see the entire

space, fragments of it appear everywhere.

The idea is that when you move

around, a “mental picture” of the original

space emerges, like a puzzle, piece by

piece. Hootsmans calls this an “Emmental

structure,” which is “sometimes

comprehensible, sometimes mysterious

and ambiguous.” Additionally, a corridor

around the classrooms acts as a climate

buffer, where you can still experience the

height and length of the former chapel—

to give a frame to your mental picture.

42 #12 SCHOOL IN RUISELEDE


#12 SCHOOL IN RUISELEDE

43


58 #18 THEATER AND CULTURAL CENTER IN DEINZE


#18 THEATER AND CULTURAL CENTER IN DEINZE

59


world.” 4 To this day, Belgians enjoy flaunting this ugliness—as demonstrated,

for example, by the highly entertaining blog Ugly Belgian

Houses. 5 The end of this period of ugliness, indifference, and flabby materialism

crept in slowly. First, a number of state reforms starting in the

1970s turned the Kingdom of Belgium into a federation of three largely

autonomous regions: Flanders, Brussels, and Wallonia. The extraordinary

complexity of Belgium’s internal politics result from its further

division into three language communities: the Dutch-, French-, and German-speaking

populations each have a separate parliament with its own

responsibilities, and the territorial boundaries of the three regions and

language areas are not identical, but overlap. As such, Belgium is a largely

opaque mesh of decision-making channels. Fortunately, we do not need

to concern ourselves more deeply with these difficulties when considering

the Open Call, since it is tied only to the Flemish government, and

thus to the region of Flanders.

At around this time, Flanders began to experience an economic

upturn that provided new opportunities for a more ambitious architectural

scene. The first real “generation” of Belgian architects was “Generatie

74,” 6 named after the year in which Hilde Daem and Paul Robbrecht,

Marc Dubois, Christian Kieckens, and Marie-José van Hee celebrated

their graduation from the Sint-Lucas School of Arts in Ghent with an

exhibition that vociferously criticized architectural education in Flanders.

The wider community of this generation includes bOb Van Reeth,

Stéphane Beel, Willem Jan Neutelings, and Xaveer de Geyter. Compared

to today’s Flemish architects, this generation had a significantly harder

time in landing assignments. But slowly they made progress and are now

considered the wave of architects that laid the foundation for a vibrant

and self-assured architecture in Belgium—particularly in Flanders. This

generation did not share a unified stylistic or aesthetic approach to architecture

either. Despite this, there was a sense of unity regarding the need

to emancipate and professionalize the discipline, as well as with regard

to the importance of broadening the scope of architecture to reach other

fields—particularly by developing strong new connections with art and

urban planning.

THE INVENTION OF THE BOUWMEESTER

Despite all this, the 1980s and 90s were not easy for architects in Flanders

either. The true “wonder years” only began around the new millennium,

after architecture education at universities had improved. As

recently as the 1990s, many young Belgian architects chose to study or

work in the Netherlands, where the “SuperDutch generation” 7 was

spreading its wings. Among politicians in Flanders, the response to this

state of affairs came first and foremost from finance minister Wivina

Demeester. According to an oft-repeated legend, 8 in 1998, Demeester

62 FLORIAN HEILMEYER

4 Renaat Braem, Het

lelijkste land ter wereld

(Antwerp: VAi Publishers,

2018); re-edition of

the original text from

1968 in a new publication

with an essay by the

Flemish Government

Architect Leo Van Broeck

and a photo essay by Filip

Dujardin.

5 See https://uglybelgianhouses.tumblr.com

(last consulted 24 May

2021) and the book based

on the blog: Hannes

Coudenys, Ugly Belgian

Houses. Don’t try this at

home (Ghent: Borgerhoff

& Lamberigts, 2015).

6 See Caroline Voet, Katrin

Vandermarliere, Sofie De

Caigny, Lara Schrijver,

Autonomous Architecture

in Flanders: The Early

Works of Marie-José

Van Hee, Christian

Kieckens, Marc Dubois,

Paul Robbrecht and Hilde

Daem (Leuven: Leuven

University Press, 2016).

7 Baart Lootsma, Super-

Dutch. New Architecture

in the Netherlands

(Ashland, OH: B&T

Publishers, 2000).

8 For example, it is

recounted by Stefan

Devoldere in conversation

with Anh-Linh Ngo

in the article “Learning

from Flanders” (German),

Arch+ No. 220: Normcore.

Die Radikalität des

Normalen in Flandern

(2015).


1

2 3

4 5

Open Call 1516 for the Port Authority Headquarters in Antwerp.

All five final proposals from the competition:

1 Zaha Hadid Architects

2 xdga Xaveer De Geyter Architects

3 a2o architecten, Atelier Kempe Thill, Bureau d’Études Greisch, and Marcq & Roba

4 Vier Arquitectos

5 Rapp+Rapp

THE OPEN CALL AND THE WONDER YEARS OF FLEMISH ARCHITECTURE

63


involved were evidently unable to agree on the division of the costs for

the successful Open Call design agreed upon in 2014, and the winner of a

limited competition was announced in 2020. 10 The decision not to build

the original design was not publicly discussed, but quietly died. The

design submitted jointly by Robbrecht en Daem, Dierendonckblancke

architecten, Arup, and VK Engineering for the new headquarters of the

state TV and radio broadcaster VRT in Brussels shared a similar fate, but

its death was much more publicly discussed. Officially, the VRT project

was abandoned because the design turned out to be more expensive than

anticipated. A smaller building was to be designed and tendered through

a design-build process instead. It was reason enough for the architect

Philip Adam to write a critical article questioning whether this spelled

“the end of architecture competitions.” 11 Many other projects ended without

public interest.

However, some Open Calls have led to intense public debate—

such as that for the planned Museum of Contemporary Art in Antwerp

(M HKA) in 2020. Apparently, the responsible government department

would have liked to construct another outstanding building by a famous

architecture firm on the banks of the Scheldt, but the jury was unable to

come to an agreement. The project was terminated for the time being,

and—as annoyingly as unprecedentedly—the proposals were not even

published. In this case, the commissioner wanted to minimize a public

argument over the proposals. At the time of writing, it seems there will

be another Open Call for the museum. In the meantime, some daily

papers and trade press referred to this as a “drama” 12 and a “complete

derailment.” 13 The Dutch architecture critic Harm Tilman even saw the

failure of the project as grounds to bid a final farewell to the Open Call,

saying that the process had “lost its shine” and had “clearly outlived its

usefulness.” Since the competing designs for the M HKA were not made

public, preventing a comprehensive debate, Tilman concluded that Belgium’s

building culture was heading down the same dismal road as that

taken by the Netherlands some years earlier: “We in the Netherlands

must now go in search of a new country’s example to follow when it

comes to client commissioning.” 14

Despite all this, the case of the M HKA shines a light on one of

the Open Call’s fundamentally positive characteristics: the limited influence

of the Government Architect. He is neither an all-powerful client

representative nor the president of the jury, but rather a consultant participating

in a process with many actors. What’s more, the Government

Architect’s advice is non-binding. While this is a key requirement for

obtaining the trust of the authorities taking part in the process, it simultaneously

creates the problem that the clients are not obligated to implement

its outcome. The possibility of failure is an unavoidable component

of this, and it is always disappointing when it happens. That said,

the Open Calls became more stable over the course of the first twenty

years of the process. As such, a significantly lower percentage of Open

Calls conclude without a built result today than in the early years.

74

FLORIAN HEILMEYER

10 Editorial “Antwerpse

haven krijgt tegen 2024

een gloednieuwe controletoren,”

Het Laatste

Niews, 1 March 2020,

https://www.hln.be/

antwerpen/ antwerpsehaven-

krijgt-tegen-

2024-gloednieuwecontroletoren~

acde3a46/.

11 Philip Adam, “Het VRT

Gebouw: het einde van

de architectuurwedstrijden?,”

Architectura.

2 April 2020, https://

www.architectura.

be/nl/nieuws/43228/

opinie-philip-adam-

--het-vrt-gebouwhet-einde-van-dearchitectuurwedstrijden

(Dutch).

12 Marc Dubois: “Het

drama van M(U)HKA in

Antwerpen,” A+ online,

6 July 2020, https://

www.a-plus.be/nl/opinie/

het-drama-van-muhka-in-antwerpen/

(Dutch).

13 Jan Lippens, “Hoe de

architectuurwedstrijd

voor het nieuwe M HKA

compleet ontspoorde,”

Knack, June 24 2020,

https://www.knack.be/

nieuws/belgie/hoe-dearchitectuurwedstrijdvoor-het-nieuwe-m-hkacompleet-ontspoorde/

article-longread-1613373.

html (Dutch).

14 Harm Tilman: “Debacle

Open Oproep M HKA in

Antwerpen,” De Architect

online, July 12, 2020,

https://www.dearchitect.nl/architectuur/

blog/2020/07/debacleopen-oproep-m-hka-inantwerpen-101245595.


15 Marc Dubois. “Het spook

van de Gentse Opera,”

De Standaard, December

3, 2018 (Dutch).

THE OPEN CALL IN THE PUBLIC EYE

The Open Call for the opera house in Ghent generated lively debate for

other reasons. Of the five teams selected from the forty-nine applications,

none was headquartered in Belgium: two were from England and three

from the Netherlands. In an article for the daily newspaper De Standaard,

Belgian architect and critic Marc Dubois quickly pointed out that

the first Government Architect, bOb Van Reeth, had intended for the

finalists to include a young Flemish office in addition to one or two foreign

offices whenever possible. 15 While this is not a fixed requirement, it

is something that the process aims to achieve. Just a few days earlier,

director of the Flanders Architecture Institute Sofie De Caigny had published

an article with a similar thrust. She argued that the all-round

transparency of the Open Call was one of its most important characteristics,

and that the choice of teams for the opera was therefore disappointing.

In this case, she argued, it appeared that the Open Call had

played it safe by favoring well-known international offices over what

were perceived to be “smaller” Belgian names. But, as De Caigny put it:

“If we wish to reinforce the ‘Flemish Wave’ and advance the flourishing

architectural culture that has emerged in Flanders over the past decades,

opportunities must be made available for talent to break through the

‘glass ceiling’ of the big commissions.” 16 Both De Caigny and Dubois further

emphasised that the aim was not to promote protectionism by

excluding international offices. Rather, it was to pay greater attention to

the mix of candidates in the future. In fact, Dubois had already remarked

on this in March 2014, when only one Belgian office was chosen to compete

against four non-Belgian firms for the Polderbos crematorium project.

(As it happens, the Belgian firm OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van

Severen, did win in this case; see p. 18).

The lively public interest and commentary in all cases mentioned

here corroborate the relevance and good reputation that the Open Call

has attained in Flanders. Again and again, criticism is not of the process

itself, but instead aims (usually constructively) to affirm the original

intentions of the Open Call. Debates like these are a welcome part of a

transparent, democratic process that, in the case of M HKA would have

benefited from the publication of the designs submitted. The criticism

shows that the nature of the Open Call is not only particularly perceived

and valued as providing an opportunity for young talent, but also publicly

defended as such. The Government Architect and the commissioning

clients in the public sector need to find the “right” choice for every

project in order to achieve a result that the public finds satisfactory—a

feat that has to be accomplished anew for every commission. Ultimately,

both the Government Architect and the relevant building authority must

keep in mind that their work is in service of the public.

16 Sofie De Caigny, “Het

glazen plafond van de

Vlaamse architectuur,”

De Standaard, November

28, 2018 (Dutch).

THE OPEN CALL AND THE WONDER YEARS OF FLEMISH ARCHITECTURE

75


80 #19 UNIVERSITY LIBRARY IN GHENT


#19 UNIVERSITY LIBRARY IN GHENT

81


100 #26 CEMETERY IN ANTWERP


#26 CEMETERY IN ANTWERP

101


THE TWISTING TOWER: Province of Antwerp

headquarters

Architects: xdga Xaveer De Geyter Architects; Commissioner: Provinciebestuur Antwerpen. Open Call 2101;

Address Koningin Elisabethlei 22, 2018 Antwerp; Date 2011–19; Budget 69.45 mil. Euro; Size 32,700 sqm

In 2011, the Province of Antwerp initiated

an Open Call for the replacement

of an outdated office tower on the

Koningin Elisabethlei, but to retain a

two-story pavilion as an artifact within

the new design. Xaveer de Geyter

Architects proposed to place the full

program in a compact rectangular tower

of 58 meters in height. Just above the

pavilion, the tower is split into two parts,

as if protecting it between its feet.

To realize this splitting of the tower, it

had to be constructed like a bridge with

large steel trusses hidden in the walls. It

is the triangular modules of those hidden

trusses from which the form of the 683

triangular windows of the façade derives.

The dark appearance of the windows

contrasts starkly with the white mosaic

tiles in between, resulting in an abstract,

shimmering tower in black and white.

And it has a twist: the upper floors rotate

as they ascend floor by floor. This is

not just an aesthetic decision, though it

does give the building a light and fluid

look. From some perspectives, it appears

slender, while from others you can see

its full width. But more importantly,

the tower leaves a large part of the site

free to become a public park—and it is

the twist that reduces shadows on surrounding

buildings and lets sunlight pass

onto the new greenery. Now publicly

accessible, this former backyard becomes

an important green connection between

two major public parks. During the

design process, it became apparent that

the old pavilion wasn’t suitable for the

public program it was to host, so it was

finally replaced by a fully glazed volume

to house a public foyer, two auditoria

and an exhibition space to display works

from the provincial art collection.

108 #29 PROVINCE OF ANTWERP HEADQUARTERS


#29 PROVINCE OF ANTWERP HEADQUARTERS

109


A GIANT STAGE: Redesign of the Theaterplein in Antwerp

Architects: Studio Associato Bernardo Secchi Paola Viganò in collaboration with Dirk Jaspaert/BAS (structural engineer);

Commissioner: Stadsbestuur Antwerpen. Open Call 0611; Address Theaterplein, 2000 Antwerpen; Date 2004–08;

Budget 4.1 mil. Euro; Size 28,000 sqm (square), 5,000 sqm (roof); Award Best public space in Flanders, 2008

The design has eliminated all barriers

on the square. As a smooth surface of

tinted concrete, it drops with a slight

slope of two percent to connect to

the boulevards around. All margins

of the square were designed differently,

according to their character and

function. To the south, at the end of

the slope, grows a little garden. So the

emptiness is still here, yet it is no longer

desolate but filled with possibilities.

The Theaterplein is one of Antwerp’s

largest squares. It is presided over by the

Stadsschouwburg, the theater that gives

the square its name and closes off its

northern end with a rather harsh façade.

Although the square is surrounded by

more theaters, it had little, or at best,

intermittent vitality. Apart from Saturday’s

food market and Sunday’s bird

market, the large barren emptiness

made it an ill-defined space. In 2004,

the city launched an Open Call to make

this a more inviting place, offering a

maximum of possible appropriations

including open-air plays or concerts

organized by the surrounding venues.

At the same time, the design was to

take into consideration the old emergency

stairs of the Stadsschouwburg,

and a large underground car park.

The competition was won by Italian

architects Paola Viganò and Bernardo

Secchi with a proposal to construct a

large podium with a wide, transparent

ceiling twenty-three meters above. This

roof is supported by an array of seven

by six thin metal pillars, painted white,

as a vertical prolongation of the car park

below. The columns act as drainpipes

for rainwater and hold spotlights, too,

which at night illuminate the roof from

below. On the eastern side—and with a

certain sense of drama— the architects

have placed a set of three open-air emergency

stairs of galvanized steel. The

structure can support any backdrop for

open-air events, so it becomes a giant

stage for the square’s appropriation.

“How an unsightly open space becomes a warm public

place in the city, at the same time giving an ugly building

a face: a real urban fact. This makes me happy.”

BOB VAN REETH, Flemish Government Architect 1999–2005

122 #33 PUBLIC SQUARE IN ANTWERP


#33 PUBLIC SQUARE IN ANTWERP

123


138 #38 PORT AUTHORITY HEADQUARTERS IN ANTWERP

138


THE OPEN CALL: SEARCHING FOR

QUALITY IN A JOINT PROCESS

by ANNE MALLIET

The Open Call is not an architecture competition, but a “selection procedure

for designers of public building assignments.” It is not about choosing

a design, but a designer. bOb Van Reeth, when he was appointed as

the first Flemish Government Architect in 1999, already had a great deal

of experience with architecture competitions. He believed that the focus

of competitions on a finished design was a mistake and that this had to

change in the Open Call. He wanted to develop a procedure that would

search for quality at every step.

“In selecting architects, the holding of a competition is a means,

but this means cannot be classified as a tool for the search for quality.

Comparing designs with the aim of selecting from among them a design

to be executed is at odds with a process that involves a joint search for

quality by the contracting authority, the designer and the artist. When

comparing and testing designers, one should above all look for a design

vision that is in line with the contracting authority’s vision and the

search for a diversity of architectures.” 1

Indeed, the Open Call was conceived so that a limited number of

designers would “go through part of the design process together with

the contracting authority.” 2 The authority then chooses one of the designers.

After the award comes the actual design process, whose finality is

the definitive design. It can happen that the first concept or rough design

hits the bull’s-eye, but more often than not, a great deal of fine-tuning is

required.

1 Flemish Government

Architect, Jaarverslag

1999 (Annual report

1999), 54.

2 Flemish Government

Architect, ‘Halfweg’

Jaarverslag 2000 (“Halfway”

Annual Report), 47.

THE PROJECT DEFINITION AND THE CULTURAL DIMENSION

OF PUBLIC BUILDING

With this in mind, the emphasis was placed on the importance of the

“project definition.” Commissioning parties were used to expressing their

needs in a program of requirements, floor areas and a budget. From now

on, they also had to articulate their expectations and ambitions in the

form of a project definition. It had to explain the building need from the

viewpoint of the commissioning authority’s social task. The Government

Architect questions the meaning of the project for the city, society,

THE OPEN CALL: SEARCHING FOR QUALITY IN A JOINT PROCESS

139


BEST OF BOTH WORLDS: Kindergarten and Parks

Maintenance Depot in Merksem, Antwerp

Architects: 51N4E; Commissioner: AG VESPA for Stadsbestuur Antwerpen and Bedrijf Lerende Stad. Open Call 1610;

Address Speelpleinstraat 55, 2170 Merksem; Date 2008–12; Budget 1.8 mil. Euro; Size 3,500 sqm

is a circular courtyard. Here, the children

can watch the workers next door through

an oversized panorama window—like

seeing a “Bob the Builder” story come

alive. By raising the level of the kindergarten,

the architecture enables children

and adult workers to meet (almost) at

eye-level. Furthermore, the staff of both

the kindergarten and the park department

share a logistical area, the dining

and rest rooms. This small yet highly

complex building thus manages not only

to combine two very different programs,

fulfilling all necessities, but also to add a

joyful connection in the everyday routines

of both the children and the workers

of the parks and gardens department.

The site is located in the middle of a

green municipal park in the center of

Merksem. The municipality formulated

two different aims here for the construction:

a depot and workshop for the

city’s parks and gardens department,

and a new kindergarten for 144 children.

In the preparations for the Open

Call, the discussions of municipality

and the Team Flemish Government

Architect gradually altered the project

brief into a combination of both

programs within a single building—an

unusual question that found a brilliant

answer in the design by 51N4E.

“We use this project as a reference to demonstrate to

possible clients that we can make a more efficient use of

spaces if we combine differing programs in a smart way,

in this case bringing children into rare contact with the

working environment—something that has alas become

rare in today’s society.”

MARIO DEPUTTER, Team Flemish Government Architect

They created a circular building, like a

large pavilion in the park. The park’s

maintenance depot, with its need for

a larger parking area and garages, is

placed to the north along the street,

clearly marked by a strikingly folded

canopy. The kindergarten features a

circumferential veranda, widely opening

the fully glazed rooms to the park. The

architectural detailing emphasizes the

differences between the two spaces:

while all elements for the park’s maintenance

department are “big and rough,”

as the architects say, everything in the

kindergarten is “small and fragile.”

Both programs, however, coincide in the

spatial center of the kindergarten, which

148 #40 KINDERGARTEN AND PARKS MAINTENANCE DEPOT IN MERKSEM


#40 KINDERGARTEN AND PARKS MAINTENANCE DEPOT IN MERKSEM

149


AN INTENSE ABSENCE: Holocaust memorial and

museum for the Dossin Barracks in Mechelen

Architects: awg architecten; Commissioner: Vlaamse overheid, Diensten voor het Algemeen Regeringsbeleid, Afdeling

Communicatie. Open Call 1301; Address Goswin De Stassartstraat 153, 2800 Mechelen; Date 2007–12; Budget 14.5 mil.

Euro; Size 6,518 sqm (new building), 1,650 sqm (renovation)

During the Second World War, more

than 25,000 people were deported

from the Dossin Barracks to German

concentration camps. After the war,

this complicity with the Nazis in mass

murder was quietly concealed in Flemish

society. The barracks in Mechelen—a

place as a guilt-laden witness—were

tacitly converted into standard apartments.

It was not until fifty years after

the war that a small museum and memorial

were added to the site. Another ten

years later, an Open Call was launched

to build a study center, a memorial and

museum as one coherent whole. The city

purchased a large site across the street,

where a former prison was torn down.

The competition was won by awg

architects, who designed the museum

as a monument in itself. Throughout its

entire design, the building deals with an

“intense absence.” One of the prison’s

walls, which is a protected monument,

was integrated into the museum’s pedestal,

closing it off against the city. From

this solid base, a tower-like concrete

structure—more reminiscent of an

anti-aircraft bunker than a museum—

rises above. The entrance is a large sliding

door of rusty metal, a disturbing element

like a freight-wagon’s door, placed

out of any axial symmetry with the site.

The open square between barracks and

museum-fortress has been homogeneously

paved, forming a connecting element

between the two different entities.

Inside the tower, only the ground and

top floors enjoy natural light. The three

intermediate levels remain windowless;

the few window gaps are purely

symbolic and bricked up with more

than 25,000 bricks. These floors are

fully focused on the multimedia exhibitions

inside, again bearing witness

to absence and loneliness, perhaps

even causing a little claustrophobia.

Only when reaching the top floor is it

possible to step outside again, blinking

into the daylight and looking out

over both the city and the barracks.

170 #49 HOLOCAUST MUSEUM IN MECHELEN


#49 HOLOCAUST MUSEUM IN MECHELEN

171


ICON OF INFRASTRUCTURE: A sculptural water silo

in Beersel

Architects: BEL Architects and Bureau d’Études Weinand; Commissioner: TMVW Integraal Waterbedrijf. Open Call 1406;

Address Genstberg 33, 1652 Beersel; Date 2007–15; Budget 2.7 mil. Euro; Size 2,500 m3 (storage capacity)

Infrastructural buildings are rarely seen

as landmark design tasks, and Flanders is

no exception. Yet it is often infrastructure

that defines the appearance of our

surroundings, from bridges and railways

to power poles or parking areas—we

just take these structures for granted.

The old water tower near Beersel was

different, however. Built in 1938, it

stood on a hilltop by a roundabout,

overlooking a wide expanse of fields

with views of Brussels. It clearly was a

landmark in the landscape and a favorite

spot for touring cyclists, especially

during the biennial Brabantse Pijl, when

the tower was also used as look-out and

transmission mast. And yet it needed

replacement, since the water demand

asked for a capacity of 2,500 cubic meter

storage space instead of the meagre

500 cubic meters of the old tower.

For this prominent piece of infrastructure,

an Open Call was launched.

Winning the competition jointly, BEL

Architects and Bureau d’Études Weinand

proposed a bold figure: an inverted

pyramid, thirty-two meters high and

triangular in plan with a side length

of seven meters at its foot, rising to

twenty-four meters at the top. When

approached or passed on the roundabout,

its non-symmetrical silhouette

offers ever-changing perspectives,

growing bigger or smaller, wider or

narrower according to one’s position.

The construction is reduced to its bare

essence: a conical volume of exposed

reinforced concrete. All necessary technical

installations and the inspection

stairs remain visible. In pure technical

terms, this is not a classic water tower

but a water silo, since it is filled from

the bottom to the top, like a vase or a

beer glass. You could also compare it to

a ballerina, dancing on one toe: a toe

that is a hexagonal foundation handling

the enormous forces: when fully filled

the pyramid weighs 6l6 tons. Whatever

you see in it, it’s a beautiful figure in

the landscape and makes one wish that

planners would turn infrastructure

into a special design task more often.

188 #53 WATER SILO IN BEERSEL


#53 WATER SILO IN BEERSEL

189


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16

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THE CENTER OF GRAVITY: Hofheide crematorium

in Holsbeek

Architects: Coussée & Goris Architecten and RCR Aranda Pigem Vilalta Arquitectes in collaboration with OMGEVING;

Commissioner: Intergemeentelijke samenwerking (IGS) Hofheide. Open Call 1008; Address Jennekensstraat 5,

3220 Holsbeek; Date 2005–13; Budget 9.5 mil. Euro (building), 1 mil. Euro (landscape); Size 3,800 sqm (building),

36 ha (landscape); Award Provinciale Architectuurprijs Patrimonium voor de Toekomst 2015

The Spanish and Flemish architects of

RCR and Coussée & Goris had already

known each other for ten years, but this

Open Call provided the first opportunity

to work on a joint project. The cooperation

turned out so happily that they

came together again for a sequel: the

De Krook library in Ghent (see p. 82).

The two projects couldn’t be more different.

While the library in Ghent stands

in a dense urban context, for the design

of this regional crematorium the wide

open landscape was key. The architects

described the site as a “gentle swampy

basin.” They placed the crematorium as

an abstract sarcophagus, a heavy form

right in the middle of this basin, on

one of the lowest points. Further, they

put it in a shallow trough just below

ground water level, so that it becomes

surrounded by a shallow pond. The

gesture of this setting is continued with

an abstract architecture that turns the

crematorium into an archaic monument

older than any religion. Along the upper

two thirds, strips of weathered Corten

steel and irregular widths are mounted

to the external walls to form a canopy

above an open promenade that circles

around the building. Via three bridges,

the promenade connects to different

paths that span a network over the entire

terrain. The building sits like a spider in

the middle of this network, creating a

center of gravity for the entire landscape.

From the promenade, different routes

lead into the crematorium, where all

rooms and hallways are of a remarkable

height. The material palette of the surfaces

is reduced to concrete and a warm,

rusty metal. Lighting changes from a

dramatic vertical light-fall through skylights

to the dampened ingress of light

from horizontal slits, combined with

the reflections from the water surface

outside. With this powerful layout, the

crematorium changes the atmosphere

of the entire landscape into something

mystical and deeply ceremonial.

204 #60 CREMATORIUM IN HOLSBEEK


#60 CREMATORIUM IN HOLSBEEK

205


226 #67 MUNICIPAL SPORTS HALL IN GENK


#67 MUNICIPAL SPORTS HALL IN GENK

227


236 #70 BRIDGE AND BUNKER MUSEUM IN VROENHOVEN


“The integration of bridge, public space, and visitors center to the

bunker grants the site a new, very individual identity. In general, giving

a piece of infrastructure a destination quality happens far too rarely—

despite the fact that these are often fascinating locations where it’s

worth pausing for a moment. In this regard, integrating a visitors center

into the bridge’s abutment connected to a sloping square is truly an

exemplary project.”

STIJN DE VLEESCHOUWER, Team Flemish Government Architect

#70 BRIDGE AND BUNKER MUSEUM IN VROENHOVEN

237


THE OPEN CALL AS A DRIVING FORCE

FOR ARCHITECTURE CULTURE

by ERIK WIEËRS

The architecture competition has a long tradition. The earliest examples

date back to Ancient Greece, and it became a permanent feature of building

design from the Renaissance onward. At various times in history, the

competition has played a role in the breakthrough of trends and styles,

since it gives new approaches a chance to prove their quality and effectiveness.

For this reason, it came to be seen as a worthier alternative to a

direct assignment, with the commissioning authority postponing the

choice of architect until a concrete vision of the project is on the table.

The choice is therefore better informed in terms of content. The architecture

competition is also seen as a more qualitative and objective way

of appointing a designer for a project. There has even been a tendency to

regard the holding of a competition as a guarantee of the quality of the

built result.

But this is not always the case. The search for a good designer is

more complex, and putting different candidates in competition with each

other is not enough in itself. This was clearly understood when the Open

Call was conceived as a method for strengthening public commissions in

Flanders. The name says it all: it is a call, not a competition. This indicates

that the process of achieving architectural quality starts with the

announcement, the question. Twenty years ago, the initiators of the Open

Call rightly argued that architectural quality gains from posing an ambitious

question. It is a mistake to believe that more freedom leads to more

creativity. The quality of the result, the aptness of the answer, is tied to

the aptness of the assignment. With the Open Call, the responsibility for

quality was placed from the start equally on the contracting authority,

which uses public funds to serve the general interest, and the designer.

The question posed in detail in a project definition by the contracting

authority guides the designer to a well-founded answer. The

project definition must not only be extremely precise when it comes to

the concrete details of the assignment, but it must also formulate the

social ambitions in the broad sense. The role of the Team Flemish Government

Architect is crucial in this regard. The project supervisors assist

the commissioning authority in preparing the project definition. In

doing so they can draw on experience from both similar and different

kinds of projects. As a result, they can help to raise the project’s level of

ambition. They ensure that the commission is formulated broadly and

238

ERIK WIEËRS


place the assignment in a general social and cultural context. This stimulates

the candidate designers and generates characteristic and meaningful

answers. It feeds the urge for experimentation and innovation.

The improved quality of architectural production in Flanders is

therefore not only due to the fact that designers are increasingly creative:

the accumulation of knowledge within the Team Flemish Government

Architect and the discourse of the successive Government Architects—

who, every five years, emphasize different aspects and place new social

challenges on the agenda in order to strengthen the project definitions—

are equally crucial. The team also stimulates the development of specific

solutions by assisting the public commissioning authority in the selection

of candidates. The project supervisors have a thorough knowledge

of the world of architecture, and this knowledge has grown considerably

thanks to the years-long success of the procedure. A selection for an

Open Call is highly regarded in the profession and is seen as a confirmation

of the quality of the design office. It looks good in the portfolio of

up-and-coming talents and confirms the reputation of established firms.

The wide range of strong candidates who apply for every assignment

makes an increasingly interesting list from which the Government Architect

and the team make a selection in each case.

By aiming for diversity in the selection—from more experienced

designers to emerging talent or national and international offices with a

specific signature—the Team Flemish Government Architect can help

the contracting authorities to put together a variety of idiosyncratic

design visions. In addition to predictable qualitative solutions, standing

up for new, unexpected proposals is a deliberate strategy to guarantee

quality in the long term. By formulating explicit answers to concrete

assignments, young offices can build up a discourse that can grow into

their own architectural signature. By addressing ambitious questions put

by commissioning authorities, they can systematically raise the quality

of their architectural production.

The Open Call stands out from the traditional competition in

that the public design assignment is dealt with as a process in which

every step matters. This has turned many public bodies in Flanders into

exemplary contracting authorities and put the quality of architecture in

Flanders into a self-reinforcing mode. The constant raising of the degree

of ambition on a cultural-social level ensures increasingly apt answers;

this generates more opportunities to realize special designs and develop

a signature; and this in turn provides the Team Flemish Government

Architect with insights to help formulate the question even more precisely

and with even greater ambition on the next occasion. Moreover,

the whole procedure involves the uninitiated in the process of quality

architecture. By helping to formulate the project definition, the commissioning

parties (in many cases, local authorities) gain insight into the

possible answers and expertise in the selection process. The Open Call

thus also has a social function and helps to strengthen the culture of

architecture.

THE OPEN CALL AS A DRIVING FORCE FOR ARCHITECTURE CULTURE

239


COLOPHON

Celebrating Public Architecture. Buildings

from the Open Call in Flanders 2000–21 is

co-published by ovis Verlag, Team Vlaams

Bouwmeester and the Flanders Architecture

Institute.

Editor: FLORIAN HEILMEYER

Editing team of the Flemish Government

Architect: ANNE MALLIET,

CATEAU ROBBERECHTS,

PIETER DEGRENDELE

Cover photo: STIJN BOLLAERT, Theaterplein

in Antwerp (p. 122) by STUDIO ASSOCIATO

BERNARDO SECCHI PAOLA VIGANÒ in

collaboration with DIRK JASPAERT/BAS

Translations: JESSICA GLANZ (German to

English), PATRICK LENNON (Dutch to English)

Copy editing: MELISSA LARNER

Design and setting: FLOYD E. SCHULZE

Lithography: BILD1DRUCK

Printed in the European Union

The editor would like to thank especially all the

architecture, engineering, urbanism and

landscaping offices involved, who have

generously provided so many extra information,

drawings and images for this book.

© 2021 by ovis Verlag GmbH

Texts by kind permission of the authors.

Pictures by kind permission of the

photographers/architects/holders of the

picture rights.

All rights reserved.

Bibliographic information published by the

Deutsche Nationalbibliothek:

The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this

publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie;

detailed bibliographic data are available on the

Internet at http://dnb.d-nb.de.

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