Celebrating Public Architecture

ISBN 978-3-86859-692-2

ISBN 978-3-86859-692-2


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Buildings from the Open Call<br />

in Flanders 2000–21<br />






PROJECTS #1—18<br />

8 #1 Social Housing in Wulpen<br />

Puls Architecten<br />

10 #2 Town Hall in Diksmuide<br />

ono architectuur and Callebaut Architecten<br />

14 #3 Care Home in Ostend<br />

Bovenbouw Architectuur<br />

18 #4 Crematorium in Ostend<br />

OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen<br />

20 #5 Social Housing in Gistel<br />

Witherford Watson Mann Architects<br />

24 #6 Primary School in Zarren<br />

FELT <strong>Architecture</strong> & Design<br />

26 #7 Town Hall in Menen<br />

noAarchitecten<br />

28 #8 City Library in Blankenberge<br />

Sergison Bates Architects<br />

30 #9 Pedestrian Bridge in Knokke-Heist<br />

Ney & Partners<br />

34 #10 Primary School in Bruges<br />

Tom Thys Architecten and Carton123 Architecten<br />

38 #11 Administrative Center in Oostkamp<br />

Carlos Arroyo Architects<br />

42 #12 School in Ruiselede<br />

Hootsmans Architectuurbureau<br />

44 #13 Crematorium in Kortrijk<br />

Eduardo Souto de Moura and SumProject<br />

46 #14 Sports Center in Sint-Jan-in-Eremo<br />

Coussée & Goris Architecten<br />

50 #15 Care Home in Nevele<br />

51N4E<br />

52 #16 Administrative Center in Deinze<br />

Tony Fretton Architects<br />

54 #17 Art Academies in Deinze<br />

Studio Lens°Ass and WIT Architecten<br />

56 #18 Theater and Cultural Center in Deinze<br />

TRANS architectuur | stedenbouw and V+<br />





PROJECTS #19—38<br />

78 #19 University Library in Ghent<br />

Robbrecht en Daem Architecten<br />

82 #20 City Library in Ghent<br />

Coussée & Goris Architecten and<br />

RCR Aranda Pigem Vilalta Arquitectes<br />

86 #21 Care Home in Oudenaarde<br />

noAarchitecten<br />

88 #22 Police Station in Brakel<br />

ORG Permanent Modernity<br />

90 #23 Community Center in Moorsel<br />

De Kort Van Schaik and Sophie Van Noten Architect<br />

94 #24 City Library in Dendermonde<br />

BOB361 Architects<br />

96 #25 Community Center in Bornem<br />

MORGEN Architectuur<br />

98 #26 Cemetery in Antwerp<br />

AKB_architectuur Kristoffel Boghaert<br />

102 #27 Library, Police Station and Academy in Wilrijk<br />

Baumschlager Eberle Architekten<br />

104 #28 Elite Sports School in Antwerp<br />

Compagnie-O<br />

108 #29 Province of Antwerp Headquarters<br />

xdga Xaveer de Geyter Architects<br />

112 #30 Master Plan IGLO in Antwerp<br />

Tractebel<br />

116 #31 Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp<br />

KAAN Architecten<br />

120 #32 School Campus in Antwerp<br />

Stéphane Beel Architecten<br />

122 #33 <strong>Public</strong> Square in Antwerp<br />

Studio Associato Bernardo Secchi Paola Viganò<br />

124 #34 Concert Hall in Antwerp<br />

SimpsonHaugh Architects<br />

128 #35 Master Plan Falconplein in Antwerp<br />

Rapp+Rapp and West 8<br />

130 #36 Master Plan Scheldekaaien in Antwerp<br />

PROAP Estudos e Projectos de Arquitectura<br />

Paisagista and WIT Architecten<br />

132 #37 Sluice Operating Post in the Antwerp Harbor<br />

Goldsmith.Company<br />

134 #38 Port Authority Headquarters in Antwerp<br />

Zaha Hadid Architects





PROJECTS #39—51<br />

146 #39 Administrative Center in Brasschaat<br />

Compagnie-O<br />

148 #40 Kindergarten and Parks Maintenance Depot<br />

51N4E<br />

152 #41 School for Secondary Education in Merksem<br />

HUB<br />

154 #42 Master Plan for the Care Sector in Borgerhout<br />

Collectief Noord<br />

158 #43 School Campus in Deurne<br />

aaa—architectuuratelier ambiorix<br />

160 #44 Social Housing in Zandhoven<br />

Happel Cornelisse Verhoeven<br />

162 #45 Social Housing in Berlaar<br />

Van Belle & Medina Architects<br />

164 #46 Primary School in Rumst<br />

Bovenbouw Architectuur<br />

166 #47 Two Bridges in Mechelen<br />

Dietmar Feichtinger Architects<br />

168 #48 Primary School in Mechelen<br />

Happel Cornelisse Verhoeven<br />

170 #49 Holocaust Museum in Mechelen<br />

awg architecten<br />

172 #50 City Library in Mechelen<br />

Korteknie Stuhlmacher Architecten<br />

176 #51 School Campus in Mechelen<br />

Label architecture<br />

194 #56 Two Reception Areas for the<br />

Botanical Garden in Meise<br />

NU architectuuratelier<br />

196 #57 Care Home in Machelen<br />

Korteknie Stuhlmacher Architecten<br />

198 #58 Agricultural School in Leuven<br />

OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen<br />

202 #59 <strong>Public</strong> Park and Bike Highway in Leuven<br />

Artgineering and H+N+S Landscape Architects<br />

204 #60 Crematorium in Holsbeek<br />

Coussée & Goris Architecten and<br />

RCR Aranda Pigem Vilalta Arquitectes<br />

206 #61 Primary School in Tienen<br />

B-ILD Architects<br />

208 #62 Care Home in Oosterlo<br />

NU architectuuratelier<br />

212 #63 Master Plan and Community<br />

Center in Kasterlee<br />

Dierendonckblancke architecten<br />

216 #64 Animal Campus in Lommel<br />

Collectief Noord<br />

218 #65 Law Faculty for the University in Hasselt<br />

noAarchitecten<br />

222 #66 Master Plan for a Care Campus<br />

in Genk and Zonhoven<br />

Dierendonckblancke architecten<br />

224 #67 Municipal Sports Hall in Genk<br />

BEL Architects<br />

228 #68 Cultural Center in Bocholt<br />

ono architectuur<br />

232 #69 School Campus in Riemst<br />

Dierendonckblancke architecten<br />

234 #70 Bridge and Bunker Museum in Vroenhoven<br />

Ney & Partners<br />

179 THE OPEN CALL<br />

IN 10 STEPS<br />

PROJECTS #52—70<br />

184 #52 Academy in Dilbeek<br />

Carlos Arroyo Architects<br />

188 #53 Water Silo in Beersel<br />

BEL Architects and Bureau d’Études Weinand<br />

190 #54 School Campus in Brussels<br />


192 #55 Kindergarten in Etterbeek<br />

evr-architecten<br />

238 THE OPEN CALL AS A<br />



by ERIK WIEËRS<br />


242 Architects A—Z<br />

253 Photographers A—Z<br />

255 Photo Credits<br />

256 Colophon




The Open Call is unique in Europe. It is a very specific type of architectural<br />

competition invented by the first Flemish Government Architect,<br />

bOb Van Reeth, and it has been in practice in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking<br />

North of Belgium, since 2000. It is tailored for all kinds of public<br />

architecture commissions from large-scale urban master plans to individual<br />

buildings. Every department of the Flemish government and all<br />

municipalities can ask the team of the Flemish Government Architect for<br />

its consultation on any building project. Together, the public principal<br />

and the Government Architect then work on the brief for an Open Call,<br />

inviting national and international architects to apply for the task.<br />

It is important to state that the Open Call has been incredibly<br />

productive over the past two decades since its inception. At the time of<br />

writing—in May 2021—699 public building commissions have been published<br />

for 333 different commissioners from all over Flanders, ranging<br />

from new buildings to transformations and restorations, from schools<br />

and kindergartens to museums and town halls, concert halls, office buildings,<br />

public parks, and urban master plans. More than 4,500 offices<br />

applied in over 5,000 different combinations. And while 209 commissions<br />

were cancelled or re-started at some point for various reasons, a<br />

total of 331 projects have been successfully completed. These are impressive<br />

numbers. Even more impressive is the quality and imaginativeness<br />

of many of the projects.<br />

On the occasion of the twentieth birthday of the Open Call, it<br />

seems appropriate to celebrate the quality of public architecture in Flanders—and<br />

to look at what other countries might learn from this very<br />

specific procedure. This book focuses on the built output of the Open<br />

Call, presenting a selection of buildings or master plans that have<br />

resulted from Open Calls. The selection was made in a collaboration<br />

between the team of the Flemish Government Architect, the Flanders<br />

<strong>Architecture</strong> Institute (VAi), ovis Publishers, and myself as the editor.<br />

These were tough decisions that took months to resolve, mostly due to<br />

the abundance of interesting projects. We didn’t have a specific number<br />

of projects in mind, but since we intended to show a range of different<br />

public projects—taking into account the differing type and scale of<br />

buildings, regional distribution, a certain representation of national<br />

and international architecture offices, as well as different principals<br />

4<br />


from the various governmental departments—we ended up with seventy.<br />

Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to present all the projects that deserve<br />

to be shown, so we encourage readers to explore the website of the Flemish<br />

Government Architect, where all Open Calls are well documented<br />

and updated regularly: www.vlaamsbouwmeester.be/en/instruments/<br />

open-call.<br />

For this book, we’ve sorted the projects into a roughly geographical<br />

sequence, going from Flanders’ west coast landwards until we reach<br />

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

through the beautiful, versatile, and copious landscapes of contemporary<br />

Flemish public architecture.<br />



0 1 2<br />

5m<br />

JUST REVERSE THE BUILDING: Restoration, renovation,<br />

and reorganization of the historic town hall and courtyard in<br />

Diksmuide<br />

Architects: ono architectuur and Callebaut Architecten (restoration); Commissioner: Stadsbestuur Diksmuide.<br />

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

Award Prijs Wivina Demeester 2016<br />

The eclectic town hall of Diksmuide, a<br />

city of about 16,000 inhabitants near<br />

the Flemish coast, dates from 1925 and<br />

is listed as a monument. With its elaborate<br />

front and the slender bell tower<br />

looming high above the historic marketplace,<br />

the city sees the building as one<br />

of its main “business cards.” However,<br />

this business card was in dire need of<br />

modernization. The rooms were not<br />

fit for many functions and the building<br />

lacked energy-efficiency as well as clear<br />

routing and wheelchair accessibility.<br />

The proposal of ono architectuur solved<br />

this by entirely reversing the building’s<br />

organization. The main entrance is<br />

no longer through the meticulously<br />

restored front façade, but via the beautiful,<br />

quiet courtyard at the back. In<br />

the historic façade, five former window<br />

openings have been enlarged to<br />

become an open arcade that opens the<br />

building towards the courtyard. An<br />

extremely light construction of thin<br />

metal profiles and glass creates a new<br />

entry zone, welcoming, warm and transparent.<br />

A long, inclined concrete ramp<br />

runs around the courtyard, forming a<br />

protective wall while also gracefully<br />

granting accessibility. From being an<br />

almost unused space, the courtyard<br />

now forms an intimate little square and<br />

lively meeting zone. It is also connected<br />

to the historic market square in front<br />

of the Stadhuis via a public passage<br />

between city hall and the tourist agency.<br />

In the middle of the new courtyard, a<br />

square patio guides visitors and staff<br />

down into the historic basement, which<br />

houses the art archive—the so-called<br />

Wunderkammer—and quiet reading<br />

rooms for research and study. All the historic<br />

interiors, including a representative<br />

entry hall, Gothic Hall, and the wedding<br />

room, were given a sober aura thanks to<br />

clear leveling and routing, rethinking<br />

the interior room by room and subtle<br />

but very precise restoration work.<br />







COMPLETING THE BLOCK: Restoration, reorganization,<br />

and new infill building for the historic town hall in Menen<br />

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

Date 2002–12; Budget 6.25 mil. Euro; Size 4,100 sqm<br />

The town hall of Menen is a listed building<br />

block between two market squares<br />

in the very city center. The rectangular<br />

block consists of a historic belfry, the<br />

town hall dating from the late eighteenth<br />

century, a small enclosed courtyard, and<br />

a nineteenth-century extension featuring<br />

shops combined with dwellings above.<br />

Although the complex gave the impression<br />

of a coherent whole featuring monumental<br />

façades, inside it was a labyrinth<br />

in need of a thorough reorganization.<br />

Its listed status required sensitivity to<br />

the historical value of each of the elements<br />

and layers from different eras.<br />

The design by noAarchitecten focuses on<br />

a clear definition and restoration of the<br />

original buildings. They introduce two<br />

autonomous, strong structures: a large,<br />

two-story entrance hall with the council<br />

chamber above, and a new circulation<br />

structure placed in the former garden.<br />

Like a light shelf, this structure of glass<br />

and white steel gives access to all parts<br />

of the complex, mediating between the<br />

differing floor heights of the original<br />

buildings, and bringing light into the<br />

heart of the complex. The slenderness<br />

and transparency of the added structure<br />

gives its inside spaces an outdoor feeling<br />

and strongly improves the orientation<br />

of both visitors and staff. The new<br />

entrance hall, however, is defined by a<br />

concrete structure, subtly inserted into<br />

the former historic courtyard. It features<br />

square columns and a visible beam<br />

structure that lies above the existing<br />

space like a secondary layer. The design<br />

sends a subtle but powerful message<br />

that something has been done, yet<br />

again, in a complex that has seen many<br />

changes over the centuries but remains<br />

a unified entity, perhaps now more<br />

strongly tied together than ever before.<br />





of a listed school building to city library in<br />

Blankenberge<br />

Architects: Sergison Bates Architects; Commissioner: Stadsbestuur Blankenberge in association with Dexia Bank NV.<br />

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

The Open Call for a new library in<br />

the city of Blankenberge included the<br />

restoration and conversion of a former<br />

historic school building listed as a monument.<br />

Parts of the building date back<br />

to 1883, yet the project brief demanded<br />

that just two sides of the historic façade<br />

and the roof should be preserved. Consequently,<br />

all the proposals removed<br />

everything else and placed a new building<br />

behind the two façades and under the<br />

old roof—all except for Sergison Bates.<br />

The British architects saw that the brief<br />

required a variety of rooms dedicated<br />

to a broad range of activities, and they<br />

understood that the old building offered<br />

just that: a set of different rooms of<br />

varying atmospheres. Additionally, the<br />

architects believed that the memories<br />

contained in these spaces should be<br />

preserved. So they added two small<br />

annexes on each end of the building and<br />

attached a new circulation arcade on the<br />

rear side which had been in an incredibly<br />

bad state of repair, facing a large<br />

parking lot. In this way, the renovation<br />

became like surgery: the addition on<br />

the rear acts like a new spine, achieved<br />

in one surprisingly easy operation—a<br />

spine that offers a system of circulation<br />

with self-explanatory connections<br />

between the old spaces. This intelligent<br />

proposal made it possible to preserve<br />

most of the historic school building<br />

while not compromising in designing a<br />

good new library within the old walls.<br />

“Without the Open Call, we probably wouldn’t be working<br />

in Belgium. After the competition for Blankenberge,<br />

we participated in many Open Calls and won seven more.<br />

We’re indebted to a competition structure that has<br />

created so many opportunities for us.”<br />

MARINA ALDROVANDI, Sergison Bates Architects<br />

28<br />




PL.<br />

Sk.<br />

N.U<br />

LET THE LIGHTS GUIDE YOU: Transformation of<br />

a chapel into a school in Ruiselede<br />

Architects: Hootsmans Architectuurbureau; Commissioner: Vlaamse overheid, Welzijn, Volksgezondheid<br />

en Gezin, Agentschap Fonds Jongerenwelzijn, Afdeling Gemeenschapsinstellingen. Open Call 1401;<br />

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

De Zande is a monumental complex<br />

from the nineteenth century, originally a<br />

sugar factory, then used as a reformatory.<br />

In the twentieth century it was turned<br />

into a juvenile detention center. To<br />

the northeast, next to the sports fields,<br />

stands a large chapel from 1865, which<br />

the institution wanted to reuse as its new<br />

school building with twelve classrooms,<br />

workshops, a fitness space, offices and a<br />

separate teachers’ room. Given the fact<br />

that all façades of the listed building had<br />

recently been carefully restored, this<br />

was an enormous spatial wish list. Plus,<br />

if possible, the institution wanted to<br />

preserve the uninterrupted experience of<br />

the chapel’s main space.<br />

The Dutch architects of Rob Hootsmans<br />

came up with a surprising solution.<br />

They fitted all rooms for fitness and<br />

workshops in the cellar, then placed a<br />

two-story structure in the main space for<br />

all the classrooms, more or less filling up<br />

the chapel. At first the client wanted to<br />

refuse the proposal for this reason, but<br />

was intrigued by the strange system of<br />

oval windows in walls and floors. Their<br />

forms imitate the spots of sunlight that<br />

were cast into the chapel on the longest<br />

and the shortest days of the year, June<br />

21 and December 22 respectively. So<br />

although you can no longer see the entire<br />

space, fragments of it appear everywhere.<br />

The idea is that when you move<br />

around, a “mental picture” of the original<br />

space emerges, like a puzzle, piece by<br />

piece. Hootsmans calls this an “Emmental<br />

structure,” which is “sometimes<br />

comprehensible, sometimes mysterious<br />

and ambiguous.” Additionally, a corridor<br />

around the classrooms acts as a climate<br />

buffer, where you can still experience the<br />

height and length of the former chapel—<br />

to give a frame to your mental picture.<br />







world.” 4 To this day, Belgians enjoy flaunting this ugliness—as demonstrated,<br />

for example, by the highly entertaining blog Ugly Belgian<br />

Houses. 5 The end of this period of ugliness, indifference, and flabby materialism<br />

crept in slowly. First, a number of state reforms starting in the<br />

1970s turned the Kingdom of Belgium into a federation of three largely<br />

autonomous regions: Flanders, Brussels, and Wallonia. The extraordinary<br />

complexity of Belgium’s internal politics result from its further<br />

division into three language communities: the Dutch-, French-, and German-speaking<br />

populations each have a separate parliament with its own<br />

responsibilities, and the territorial boundaries of the three regions and<br />

language areas are not identical, but overlap. As such, Belgium is a largely<br />

opaque mesh of decision-making channels. Fortunately, we do not need<br />

to concern ourselves more deeply with these difficulties when considering<br />

the Open Call, since it is tied only to the Flemish government, and<br />

thus to the region of Flanders.<br />

At around this time, Flanders began to experience an economic<br />

upturn that provided new opportunities for a more ambitious architectural<br />

scene. The first real “generation” of Belgian architects was “Generatie<br />

74,” 6 named after the year in which Hilde Daem and Paul Robbrecht,<br />

Marc Dubois, Christian Kieckens, and Marie-José van Hee celebrated<br />

their graduation from the Sint-Lucas School of Arts in Ghent with an<br />

exhibition that vociferously criticized architectural education in Flanders.<br />

The wider community of this generation includes bOb Van Reeth,<br />

Stéphane Beel, Willem Jan Neutelings, and Xaveer de Geyter. Compared<br />

to today’s Flemish architects, this generation had a significantly harder<br />

time in landing assignments. But slowly they made progress and are now<br />

considered the wave of architects that laid the foundation for a vibrant<br />

and self-assured architecture in Belgium—particularly in Flanders. This<br />

generation did not share a unified stylistic or aesthetic approach to architecture<br />

either. Despite this, there was a sense of unity regarding the need<br />

to emancipate and professionalize the discipline, as well as with regard<br />

to the importance of broadening the scope of architecture to reach other<br />

fields—particularly by developing strong new connections with art and<br />

urban planning.<br />


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

either. The true “wonder years” only began around the new millennium,<br />

after architecture education at universities had improved. As<br />

recently as the 1990s, many young Belgian architects chose to study or<br />

work in the Netherlands, where the “SuperDutch generation” 7 was<br />

spreading its wings. Among politicians in Flanders, the response to this<br />

state of affairs came first and foremost from finance minister Wivina<br />

Demeester. According to an oft-repeated legend, 8 in 1998, Demeester<br />


4 Renaat Braem, Het<br />

lelijkste land ter wereld<br />

(Antwerp: VAi Publishers,<br />

2018); re-edition of<br />

the original text from<br />

1968 in a new publication<br />

with an essay by the<br />

Flemish Government<br />

Architect Leo Van Broeck<br />

and a photo essay by Filip<br />

Dujardin.<br />

5 See https://uglybelgianhouses.tumblr.com<br />

(last consulted 24 May<br />

2021) and the book based<br />

on the blog: Hannes<br />

Coudenys, Ugly Belgian<br />

Houses. Don’t try this at<br />

home (Ghent: Borgerhoff<br />

& Lamberigts, 2015).<br />

6 See Caroline Voet, Katrin<br />

Vandermarliere, Sofie De<br />

Caigny, Lara Schrijver,<br />

Autonomous <strong>Architecture</strong><br />

in Flanders: The Early<br />

Works of Marie-José<br />

Van Hee, Christian<br />

Kieckens, Marc Dubois,<br />

Paul Robbrecht and Hilde<br />

Daem (Leuven: Leuven<br />

University Press, 2016).<br />

7 Baart Lootsma, Super-<br />

Dutch. New <strong>Architecture</strong><br />

in the Netherlands<br />

(Ashland, OH: B&T<br />

Publishers, 2000).<br />

8 For example, it is<br />

recounted by Stefan<br />

Devoldere in conversation<br />

with Anh-Linh Ngo<br />

in the article “Learning<br />

from Flanders” (German),<br />

Arch+ No. 220: Normcore.<br />

Die Radikalität des<br />

Normalen in Flandern<br />


1<br />

2 3<br />

4 5<br />

Open Call 1516 for the Port Authority Headquarters in Antwerp.<br />

All five final proposals from the competition:<br />

1 Zaha Hadid Architects<br />

2 xdga Xaveer De Geyter Architects<br />

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

4 Vier Arquitectos<br />

5 Rapp+Rapp<br />



involved were evidently unable to agree on the division of the costs for<br />

the successful Open Call design agreed upon in 2014, and the winner of a<br />

limited competition was announced in 2020. 10 The decision not to build<br />

the original design was not publicly discussed, but quietly died. The<br />

design submitted jointly by Robbrecht en Daem, Dierendonckblancke<br />

architecten, Arup, and VK Engineering for the new headquarters of the<br />

state TV and radio broadcaster VRT in Brussels shared a similar fate, but<br />

its death was much more publicly discussed. Officially, the VRT project<br />

was abandoned because the design turned out to be more expensive than<br />

anticipated. A smaller building was to be designed and tendered through<br />

a design-build process instead. It was reason enough for the architect<br />

Philip Adam to write a critical article questioning whether this spelled<br />

“the end of architecture competitions.” 11 Many other projects ended without<br />

public interest.<br />

However, some Open Calls have led to intense public debate—<br />

such as that for the planned Museum of Contemporary Art in Antwerp<br />

(M HKA) in 2020. Apparently, the responsible government department<br />

would have liked to construct another outstanding building by a famous<br />

architecture firm on the banks of the Scheldt, but the jury was unable to<br />

come to an agreement. The project was terminated for the time being,<br />

and—as annoyingly as unprecedentedly—the proposals were not even<br />

published. In this case, the commissioner wanted to minimize a public<br />

argument over the proposals. At the time of writing, it seems there will<br />

be another Open Call for the museum. In the meantime, some daily<br />

papers and trade press referred to this as a “drama” 12 and a “complete<br />

derailment.” 13 The Dutch architecture critic Harm Tilman even saw the<br />

failure of the project as grounds to bid a final farewell to the Open Call,<br />

saying that the process had “lost its shine” and had “clearly outlived its<br />

usefulness.” Since the competing designs for the M HKA were not made<br />

public, preventing a comprehensive debate, Tilman concluded that Belgium’s<br />

building culture was heading down the same dismal road as that<br />

taken by the Netherlands some years earlier: “We in the Netherlands<br />

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

comes to client commissioning.” 14<br />

Despite all this, the case of the M HKA shines a light on one of<br />

the Open Call’s fundamentally positive characteristics: the limited influence<br />

of the Government Architect. He is neither an all-powerful client<br />

representative nor the president of the jury, but rather a consultant participating<br />

in a process with many actors. What’s more, the Government<br />

Architect’s advice is non-binding. While this is a key requirement for<br />

obtaining the trust of the authorities taking part in the process, it simultaneously<br />

creates the problem that the clients are not obligated to implement<br />

its outcome. The possibility of failure is an unavoidable component<br />

of this, and it is always disappointing when it happens. That said,<br />

the Open Calls became more stable over the course of the first twenty<br />

years of the process. As such, a significantly lower percentage of Open<br />

Calls conclude without a built result today than in the early years.<br />

74<br />


10 Editorial “Antwerpse<br />

haven krijgt tegen 2024<br />

een gloednieuwe controletoren,”<br />

Het Laatste<br />

Niews, 1 March 2020,<br />

https://www.hln.be/<br />

antwerpen/ antwerpsehaven-<br />

krijgt-tegen-<br />

2024-gloednieuwecontroletoren~<br />

acde3a46/.<br />

11 Philip Adam, “Het VRT<br />

Gebouw: het einde van<br />

de architectuurwedstrijden?,”<br />

Architectura.<br />

2 April 2020, https://<br />

www.architectura.<br />

be/nl/nieuws/43228/<br />

opinie-philip-adam-<br />

--het-vrt-gebouwhet-einde-van-dearchitectuurwedstrijden<br />

(Dutch).<br />

12 Marc Dubois: “Het<br />

drama van M(U)HKA in<br />

Antwerpen,” A+ online,<br />

6 July 2020, https://<br />

www.a-plus.be/nl/opinie/<br />

het-drama-van-muhka-in-antwerpen/<br />

(Dutch).<br />

13 Jan Lippens, “Hoe de<br />

architectuurwedstrijd<br />

voor het nieuwe M HKA<br />

compleet ontspoorde,”<br />

Knack, June 24 2020,<br />

https://www.knack.be/<br />

nieuws/belgie/hoe-dearchitectuurwedstrijdvoor-het-nieuwe-m-hkacompleet-ontspoorde/<br />

article-longread-1613373.<br />

html (Dutch).<br />

14 Harm Tilman: “Debacle<br />

Open Oproep M HKA in<br />

Antwerpen,” De Architect<br />

online, July 12, 2020,<br />

https://www.dearchitect.nl/architectuur/<br />


15 Marc Dubois. “Het spook<br />

van de Gentse Opera,”<br />

De Standaard, December<br />

3, 2018 (Dutch).<br />


The Open Call for the opera house in Ghent generated lively debate for<br />

other reasons. Of the five teams selected from the forty-nine applications,<br />

none was headquartered in Belgium: two were from England and three<br />

from the Netherlands. In an article for the daily newspaper De Standaard,<br />

Belgian architect and critic Marc Dubois quickly pointed out that<br />

the first Government Architect, bOb Van Reeth, had intended for the<br />

finalists to include a young Flemish office in addition to one or two foreign<br />

offices whenever possible. 15 While this is not a fixed requirement, it<br />

is something that the process aims to achieve. Just a few days earlier,<br />

director of the Flanders <strong>Architecture</strong> Institute Sofie De Caigny had published<br />

an article with a similar thrust. She argued that the all-round<br />

transparency of the Open Call was one of its most important characteristics,<br />

and that the choice of teams for the opera was therefore disappointing.<br />

In this case, she argued, it appeared that the Open Call had<br />

played it safe by favoring well-known international offices over what<br />

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

“If we wish to reinforce the ‘Flemish Wave’ and advance the flourishing<br />

architectural culture that has emerged in Flanders over the past decades,<br />

opportunities must be made available for talent to break through the<br />

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

emphasised that the aim was not to promote protectionism by<br />

excluding international offices. Rather, it was to pay greater attention to<br />

the mix of candidates in the future. In fact, Dubois had already remarked<br />

on this in March 2014, when only one Belgian office was chosen to compete<br />

against four non-Belgian firms for the Polderbos crematorium project.<br />

(As it happens, the Belgian firm OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van<br />

Severen, did win in this case; see p. 18).<br />

The lively public interest and commentary in all cases mentioned<br />

here corroborate the relevance and good reputation that the Open Call<br />

has attained in Flanders. Again and again, criticism is not of the process<br />

itself, but instead aims (usually constructively) to affirm the original<br />

intentions of the Open Call. Debates like these are a welcome part of a<br />

transparent, democratic process that, in the case of M HKA would have<br />

benefited from the publication of the designs submitted. The criticism<br />

shows that the nature of the Open Call is not only particularly perceived<br />

and valued as providing an opportunity for young talent, but also publicly<br />

defended as such. The Government Architect and the commissioning<br />

clients in the public sector need to find the “right” choice for every<br />

project in order to achieve a result that the public finds satisfactory—a<br />

feat that has to be accomplished anew for every commission. Ultimately,<br />

both the Government Architect and the relevant building authority must<br />

keep in mind that their work is in service of the public.<br />

16 Sofie De Caigny, “Het<br />

glazen plafond van de<br />

Vlaamse architectuur,”<br />

De Standaard, November<br />

28, 2018 (Dutch).<br />









THE TWISTING TOWER: Province of Antwerp<br />

headquarters<br />

Architects: xdga Xaveer De Geyter Architects; Commissioner: Provinciebestuur Antwerpen. Open Call 2101;<br />

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

In 2011, the Province of Antwerp initiated<br />

an Open Call for the replacement<br />

of an outdated office tower on the<br />

Koningin Elisabethlei, but to retain a<br />

two-story pavilion as an artifact within<br />

the new design. Xaveer de Geyter<br />

Architects proposed to place the full<br />

program in a compact rectangular tower<br />

of 58 meters in height. Just above the<br />

pavilion, the tower is split into two parts,<br />

as if protecting it between its feet.<br />

To realize this splitting of the tower, it<br />

had to be constructed like a bridge with<br />

large steel trusses hidden in the walls. It<br />

is the triangular modules of those hidden<br />

trusses from which the form of the 683<br />

triangular windows of the façade derives.<br />

The dark appearance of the windows<br />

contrasts starkly with the white mosaic<br />

tiles in between, resulting in an abstract,<br />

shimmering tower in black and white.<br />

And it has a twist: the upper floors rotate<br />

as they ascend floor by floor. This is<br />

not just an aesthetic decision, though it<br />

does give the building a light and fluid<br />

look. From some perspectives, it appears<br />

slender, while from others you can see<br />

its full width. But more importantly,<br />

the tower leaves a large part of the site<br />

free to become a public park—and it is<br />

the twist that reduces shadows on surrounding<br />

buildings and lets sunlight pass<br />

onto the new greenery. Now publicly<br />

accessible, this former backyard becomes<br />

an important green connection between<br />

two major public parks. During the<br />

design process, it became apparent that<br />

the old pavilion wasn’t suitable for the<br />

public program it was to host, so it was<br />

finally replaced by a fully glazed volume<br />

to house a public foyer, two auditoria<br />

and an exhibition space to display works<br />

from the provincial art collection.<br />




A GIANT STAGE: Redesign of the Theaterplein in Antwerp<br />

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

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

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

The design has eliminated all barriers<br />

on the square. As a smooth surface of<br />

tinted concrete, it drops with a slight<br />

slope of two percent to connect to<br />

the boulevards around. All margins<br />

of the square were designed differently,<br />

according to their character and<br />

function. To the south, at the end of<br />

the slope, grows a little garden. So the<br />

emptiness is still here, yet it is no longer<br />

desolate but filled with possibilities.<br />

The Theaterplein is one of Antwerp’s<br />

largest squares. It is presided over by the<br />

Stadsschouwburg, the theater that gives<br />

the square its name and closes off its<br />

northern end with a rather harsh façade.<br />

Although the square is surrounded by<br />

more theaters, it had little, or at best,<br />

intermittent vitality. Apart from Saturday’s<br />

food market and Sunday’s bird<br />

market, the large barren emptiness<br />

made it an ill-defined space. In 2004,<br />

the city launched an Open Call to make<br />

this a more inviting place, offering a<br />

maximum of possible appropriations<br />

including open-air plays or concerts<br />

organized by the surrounding venues.<br />

At the same time, the design was to<br />

take into consideration the old emergency<br />

stairs of the Stadsschouwburg,<br />

and a large underground car park.<br />

The competition was won by Italian<br />

architects Paola Viganò and Bernardo<br />

Secchi with a proposal to construct a<br />

large podium with a wide, transparent<br />

ceiling twenty-three meters above. This<br />

roof is supported by an array of seven<br />

by six thin metal pillars, painted white,<br />

as a vertical prolongation of the car park<br />

below. The columns act as drainpipes<br />

for rainwater and hold spotlights, too,<br />

which at night illuminate the roof from<br />

below. On the eastern side—and with a<br />

certain sense of drama— the architects<br />

have placed a set of three open-air emergency<br />

stairs of galvanized steel. The<br />

structure can support any backdrop for<br />

open-air events, so it becomes a giant<br />

stage for the square’s appropriation.<br />

“How an unsightly open space becomes a warm public<br />

place in the city, at the same time giving an ugly building<br />

a face: a real urban fact. This makes me happy.”<br />

BOB VAN REETH, Flemish Government Architect 1999–2005<br />









The Open Call is not an architecture competition, but a “selection procedure<br />

for designers of public building assignments.” It is not about choosing<br />

a design, but a designer. bOb Van Reeth, when he was appointed as<br />

the first Flemish Government Architect in 1999, already had a great deal<br />

of experience with architecture competitions. He believed that the focus<br />

of competitions on a finished design was a mistake and that this had to<br />

change in the Open Call. He wanted to develop a procedure that would<br />

search for quality at every step.<br />

“In selecting architects, the holding of a competition is a means,<br />

but this means cannot be classified as a tool for the search for quality.<br />

Comparing designs with the aim of selecting from among them a design<br />

to be executed is at odds with a process that involves a joint search for<br />

quality by the contracting authority, the designer and the artist. When<br />

comparing and testing designers, one should above all look for a design<br />

vision that is in line with the contracting authority’s vision and the<br />

search for a diversity of architectures.” 1<br />

Indeed, the Open Call was conceived so that a limited number of<br />

designers would “go through part of the design process together with<br />

the contracting authority.” 2 The authority then chooses one of the designers.<br />

After the award comes the actual design process, whose finality is<br />

the definitive design. It can happen that the first concept or rough design<br />

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

required.<br />

1 Flemish Government<br />

Architect, Jaarverslag<br />

1999 (Annual report<br />

1999), 54.<br />

2 Flemish Government<br />

Architect, ‘Halfweg’<br />

Jaarverslag 2000 (“Halfway”<br />

Annual Report), 47.<br />



With this in mind, the emphasis was placed on the importance of the<br />

“project definition.” Commissioning parties were used to expressing their<br />

needs in a program of requirements, floor areas and a budget. From now<br />

on, they also had to articulate their expectations and ambitions in the<br />

form of a project definition. It had to explain the building need from the<br />

viewpoint of the commissioning authority’s social task. The Government<br />

Architect questions the meaning of the project for the city, society,<br />



BEST OF BOTH WORLDS: Kindergarten and Parks<br />

Maintenance Depot in Merksem, Antwerp<br />

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

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

is a circular courtyard. Here, the children<br />

can watch the workers next door through<br />

an oversized panorama window—like<br />

seeing a “Bob the Builder” story come<br />

alive. By raising the level of the kindergarten,<br />

the architecture enables children<br />

and adult workers to meet (almost) at<br />

eye-level. Furthermore, the staff of both<br />

the kindergarten and the park department<br />

share a logistical area, the dining<br />

and rest rooms. This small yet highly<br />

complex building thus manages not only<br />

to combine two very different programs,<br />

fulfilling all necessities, but also to add a<br />

joyful connection in the everyday routines<br />

of both the children and the workers<br />

of the parks and gardens department.<br />

The site is located in the middle of a<br />

green municipal park in the center of<br />

Merksem. The municipality formulated<br />

two different aims here for the construction:<br />

a depot and workshop for the<br />

city’s parks and gardens department,<br />

and a new kindergarten for 144 children.<br />

In the preparations for the Open<br />

Call, the discussions of municipality<br />

and the Team Flemish Government<br />

Architect gradually altered the project<br />

brief into a combination of both<br />

programs within a single building—an<br />

unusual question that found a brilliant<br />

answer in the design by 51N4E.<br />

“We use this project as a reference to demonstrate to<br />

possible clients that we can make a more efficient use of<br />

spaces if we combine differing programs in a smart way,<br />

in this case bringing children into rare contact with the<br />

working environment—something that has alas become<br />

rare in today’s society.”<br />

MARIO DEPUTTER, Team Flemish Government Architect<br />

They created a circular building, like a<br />

large pavilion in the park. The park’s<br />

maintenance depot, with its need for<br />

a larger parking area and garages, is<br />

placed to the north along the street,<br />

clearly marked by a strikingly folded<br />

canopy. The kindergarten features a<br />

circumferential veranda, widely opening<br />

the fully glazed rooms to the park. The<br />

architectural detailing emphasizes the<br />

differences between the two spaces:<br />

while all elements for the park’s maintenance<br />

department are “big and rough,”<br />

as the architects say, everything in the<br />

kindergarten is “small and fragile.”<br />

Both programs, however, coincide in the<br />

spatial center of the kindergarten, which<br />




AN INTENSE ABSENCE: Holocaust memorial and<br />

museum for the Dossin Barracks in Mechelen<br />

Architects: awg architecten; Commissioner: Vlaamse overheid, Diensten voor het Algemeen Regeringsbeleid, Afdeling<br />

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

Euro; Size 6,518 sqm (new building), 1,650 sqm (renovation)<br />

During the Second World War, more<br />

than 25,000 people were deported<br />

from the Dossin Barracks to German<br />

concentration camps. After the war,<br />

this complicity with the Nazis in mass<br />

murder was quietly concealed in Flemish<br />

society. The barracks in Mechelen—a<br />

place as a guilt-laden witness—were<br />

tacitly converted into standard apartments.<br />

It was not until fifty years after<br />

the war that a small museum and memorial<br />

were added to the site. Another ten<br />

years later, an Open Call was launched<br />

to build a study center, a memorial and<br />

museum as one coherent whole. The city<br />

purchased a large site across the street,<br />

where a former prison was torn down.<br />

The competition was won by awg<br />

architects, who designed the museum<br />

as a monument in itself. Throughout its<br />

entire design, the building deals with an<br />

“intense absence.” One of the prison’s<br />

walls, which is a protected monument,<br />

was integrated into the museum’s pedestal,<br />

closing it off against the city. From<br />

this solid base, a tower-like concrete<br />

structure—more reminiscent of an<br />

anti-aircraft bunker than a museum—<br />

rises above. The entrance is a large sliding<br />

door of rusty metal, a disturbing element<br />

like a freight-wagon’s door, placed<br />

out of any axial symmetry with the site.<br />

The open square between barracks and<br />

museum-fortress has been homogeneously<br />

paved, forming a connecting element<br />

between the two different entities.<br />

Inside the tower, only the ground and<br />

top floors enjoy natural light. The three<br />

intermediate levels remain windowless;<br />

the few window gaps are purely<br />

symbolic and bricked up with more<br />

than 25,000 bricks. These floors are<br />

fully focused on the multimedia exhibitions<br />

inside, again bearing witness<br />

to absence and loneliness, perhaps<br />

even causing a little claustrophobia.<br />

Only when reaching the top floor is it<br />

possible to step outside again, blinking<br />

into the daylight and looking out<br />

over both the city and the barracks.<br />




ICON OF INFRASTRUCTURE: A sculptural water silo<br />

in Beersel<br />

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

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

Infrastructural buildings are rarely seen<br />

as landmark design tasks, and Flanders is<br />

no exception. Yet it is often infrastructure<br />

that defines the appearance of our<br />

surroundings, from bridges and railways<br />

to power poles or parking areas—we<br />

just take these structures for granted.<br />

The old water tower near Beersel was<br />

different, however. Built in 1938, it<br />

stood on a hilltop by a roundabout,<br />

overlooking a wide expanse of fields<br />

with views of Brussels. It clearly was a<br />

landmark in the landscape and a favorite<br />

spot for touring cyclists, especially<br />

during the biennial Brabantse Pijl, when<br />

the tower was also used as look-out and<br />

transmission mast. And yet it needed<br />

replacement, since the water demand<br />

asked for a capacity of 2,500 cubic meter<br />

storage space instead of the meagre<br />

500 cubic meters of the old tower.<br />

For this prominent piece of infrastructure,<br />

an Open Call was launched.<br />

Winning the competition jointly, BEL<br />

Architects and Bureau d’Études Weinand<br />

proposed a bold figure: an inverted<br />

pyramid, thirty-two meters high and<br />

triangular in plan with a side length<br />

of seven meters at its foot, rising to<br />

twenty-four meters at the top. When<br />

approached or passed on the roundabout,<br />

its non-symmetrical silhouette<br />

offers ever-changing perspectives,<br />

growing bigger or smaller, wider or<br />

narrower according to one’s position.<br />

The construction is reduced to its bare<br />

essence: a conical volume of exposed<br />

reinforced concrete. All necessary technical<br />

installations and the inspection<br />

stairs remain visible. In pure technical<br />

terms, this is not a classic water tower<br />

but a water silo, since it is filled from<br />

the bottom to the top, like a vase or a<br />

beer glass. You could also compare it to<br />

a ballerina, dancing on one toe: a toe<br />

that is a hexagonal foundation handling<br />

the enormous forces: when fully filled<br />

the pyramid weighs 6l6 tons. Whatever<br />

you see in it, it’s a beautiful figure in<br />

the landscape and makes one wish that<br />

planners would turn infrastructure<br />

into a special design task more often.<br />




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THE CENTER OF GRAVITY: Hofheide crematorium<br />

in Holsbeek<br />

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

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

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

36 ha (landscape); Award Provinciale Architectuurprijs Patrimonium voor de Toekomst 2015<br />

The Spanish and Flemish architects of<br />

RCR and Coussée & Goris had already<br />

known each other for ten years, but this<br />

Open Call provided the first opportunity<br />

to work on a joint project. The cooperation<br />

turned out so happily that they<br />

came together again for a sequel: the<br />

De Krook library in Ghent (see p. 82).<br />

The two projects couldn’t be more different.<br />

While the library in Ghent stands<br />

in a dense urban context, for the design<br />

of this regional crematorium the wide<br />

open landscape was key. The architects<br />

described the site as a “gentle swampy<br />

basin.” They placed the crematorium as<br />

an abstract sarcophagus, a heavy form<br />

right in the middle of this basin, on<br />

one of the lowest points. Further, they<br />

put it in a shallow trough just below<br />

ground water level, so that it becomes<br />

surrounded by a shallow pond. The<br />

gesture of this setting is continued with<br />

an abstract architecture that turns the<br />

crematorium into an archaic monument<br />

older than any religion. Along the upper<br />

two thirds, strips of weathered Corten<br />

steel and irregular widths are mounted<br />

to the external walls to form a canopy<br />

above an open promenade that circles<br />

around the building. Via three bridges,<br />

the promenade connects to different<br />

paths that span a network over the entire<br />

terrain. The building sits like a spider in<br />

the middle of this network, creating a<br />

center of gravity for the entire landscape.<br />

From the promenade, different routes<br />

lead into the crematorium, where all<br />

rooms and hallways are of a remarkable<br />

height. The material palette of the surfaces<br />

is reduced to concrete and a warm,<br />

rusty metal. Lighting changes from a<br />

dramatic vertical light-fall through skylights<br />

to the dampened ingress of light<br />

from horizontal slits, combined with<br />

the reflections from the water surface<br />

outside. With this powerful layout, the<br />

crematorium changes the atmosphere<br />

of the entire landscape into something<br />

mystical and deeply ceremonial.<br />








“The integration of bridge, public space, and visitors center to the<br />

bunker grants the site a new, very individual identity. In general, giving<br />

a piece of infrastructure a destination quality happens far too rarely—<br />

despite the fact that these are often fascinating locations where it’s<br />

worth pausing for a moment. In this regard, integrating a visitors center<br />

into the bridge’s abutment connected to a sloping square is truly an<br />

exemplary project.”<br />

STIJN DE VLEESCHOUWER, Team Flemish Government Architect<br />





by ERIK WIEËRS<br />

The architecture competition has a long tradition. The earliest examples<br />

date back to Ancient Greece, and it became a permanent feature of building<br />

design from the Renaissance onward. At various times in history, the<br />

competition has played a role in the breakthrough of trends and styles,<br />

since it gives new approaches a chance to prove their quality and effectiveness.<br />

For this reason, it came to be seen as a worthier alternative to a<br />

direct assignment, with the commissioning authority postponing the<br />

choice of architect until a concrete vision of the project is on the table.<br />

The choice is therefore better informed in terms of content. The architecture<br />

competition is also seen as a more qualitative and objective way<br />

of appointing a designer for a project. There has even been a tendency to<br />

regard the holding of a competition as a guarantee of the quality of the<br />

built result.<br />

But this is not always the case. The search for a good designer is<br />

more complex, and putting different candidates in competition with each<br />

other is not enough in itself. This was clearly understood when the Open<br />

Call was conceived as a method for strengthening public commissions in<br />

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

that the process of achieving architectural quality starts with the<br />

announcement, the question. Twenty years ago, the initiators of the Open<br />

Call rightly argued that architectural quality gains from posing an ambitious<br />

question. It is a mistake to believe that more freedom leads to more<br />

creativity. The quality of the result, the aptness of the answer, is tied to<br />

the aptness of the assignment. With the Open Call, the responsibility for<br />

quality was placed from the start equally on the contracting authority,<br />

which uses public funds to serve the general interest, and the designer.<br />

The question posed in detail in a project definition by the contracting<br />

authority guides the designer to a well-founded answer. The<br />

project definition must not only be extremely precise when it comes to<br />

the concrete details of the assignment, but it must also formulate the<br />

social ambitions in the broad sense. The role of the Team Flemish Government<br />

Architect is crucial in this regard. The project supervisors assist<br />

the commissioning authority in preparing the project definition. In<br />

doing so they can draw on experience from both similar and different<br />

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

ambition. They ensure that the commission is formulated broadly and<br />

238<br />


place the assignment in a general social and cultural context. This stimulates<br />

the candidate designers and generates characteristic and meaningful<br />

answers. It feeds the urge for experimentation and innovation.<br />

The improved quality of architectural production in Flanders is<br />

therefore not only due to the fact that designers are increasingly creative:<br />

the accumulation of knowledge within the Team Flemish Government<br />

Architect and the discourse of the successive Government Architects—<br />

who, every five years, emphasize different aspects and place new social<br />

challenges on the agenda in order to strengthen the project definitions—<br />

are equally crucial. The team also stimulates the development of specific<br />

solutions by assisting the public commissioning authority in the selection<br />

of candidates. The project supervisors have a thorough knowledge<br />

of the world of architecture, and this knowledge has grown considerably<br />

thanks to the years-long success of the procedure. A selection for an<br />

Open Call is highly regarded in the profession and is seen as a confirmation<br />

of the quality of the design office. It looks good in the portfolio of<br />

up-and-coming talents and confirms the reputation of established firms.<br />

The wide range of strong candidates who apply for every assignment<br />

makes an increasingly interesting list from which the Government Architect<br />

and the team make a selection in each case.<br />

By aiming for diversity in the selection—from more experienced<br />

designers to emerging talent or national and international offices with a<br />

specific signature—the Team Flemish Government Architect can help<br />

the contracting authorities to put together a variety of idiosyncratic<br />

design visions. In addition to predictable qualitative solutions, standing<br />

up for new, unexpected proposals is a deliberate strategy to guarantee<br />

quality in the long term. By formulating explicit answers to concrete<br />

assignments, young offices can build up a discourse that can grow into<br />

their own architectural signature. By addressing ambitious questions put<br />

by commissioning authorities, they can systematically raise the quality<br />

of their architectural production.<br />

The Open Call stands out from the traditional competition in<br />

that the public design assignment is dealt with as a process in which<br />

every step matters. This has turned many public bodies in Flanders into<br />

exemplary contracting authorities and put the quality of architecture in<br />

Flanders into a self-reinforcing mode. The constant raising of the degree<br />

of ambition on a cultural-social level ensures increasingly apt answers;<br />

this generates more opportunities to realize special designs and develop<br />

a signature; and this in turn provides the Team Flemish Government<br />

Architect with insights to help formulate the question even more precisely<br />

and with even greater ambition on the next occasion. Moreover,<br />

the whole procedure involves the uninitiated in the process of quality<br />

architecture. By helping to formulate the project definition, the commissioning<br />

parties (in many cases, local authorities) gain insight into the<br />

possible answers and expertise in the selection process. The Open Call<br />

thus also has a social function and helps to strengthen the culture of<br />

architecture.<br />




<strong>Celebrating</strong> <strong>Public</strong> <strong>Architecture</strong>. Buildings<br />

from the Open Call in Flanders 2000–21 is<br />

co-published by ovis Verlag, Team Vlaams<br />

Bouwmeester and the Flanders <strong>Architecture</strong><br />

Institute.<br />


Editing team of the Flemish Government<br />

Architect: ANNE MALLIET,<br />



Cover photo: STIJN BOLLAERT, Theaterplein<br />

in Antwerp (p. 122) by STUDIO ASSOCIATO<br />


collaboration with DIRK JASPAERT/BAS<br />

Translations: JESSICA GLANZ (German to<br />

English), PATRICK LENNON (Dutch to English)<br />

Copy editing: MELISSA LARNER<br />

Design and setting: FLOYD E. SCHULZE<br />

Lithography: BILD1DRUCK<br />

Printed in the European Union<br />

The editor would like to thank especially all the<br />

architecture, engineering, urbanism and<br />

landscaping offices involved, who have<br />

generously provided so many extra information,<br />

drawings and images for this book.<br />

© 2021 by ovis Verlag GmbH<br />

Texts by kind permission of the authors.<br />

Pictures by kind permission of the<br />

photographers/architects/holders of the<br />

picture rights.<br />

All rights reserved.<br />

Bibliographic information published by the<br />

Deutsche Nationalbibliothek:<br />

The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this<br />

publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie;<br />

detailed bibliographic data are available on the<br />

Internet at http://dnb.d-nb.de.<br />


ovis Verlag GmbH<br />

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10785 Berlin<br />

www.jovis.de<br />


Team Vlaams Bouwmeester<br />

Havenlaan 88 bus 10<br />

1000 Brussels (B)<br />

www.vlaamsbouwmeester.be<br />

Flanders <strong>Architecture</strong> Institute<br />

Jan Van Rijswijcklaan 155<br />

2018 Antwerp (B)<br />

www.vai.be<br />

ovis books are available worldwide in select<br />

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ISBN 978-3-86859-692-2<br />

<strong>Architecture</strong><br />

With the support of<br />


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