The architect’s house, the home the architect builds for himself, is a tool more powerful than one would imagine at first. As being the client, as well as the designer, the architect has hardly any constraints during the design and construction process, besides his own wishes. He can use his own house for instance as a unique opportunity for a technological or architectural experiment and cultivate his sense of “entrepreneurial daring” to the fullest. The house can also become a manifest, a pilot project, a masterpiece or turning point in the architect his career. Thereby it represents the best possible business card within the profession.
In 2015, it was noted that architects' houses were being increasingly recognized and valued on an international level, but that only little was still known on this building type in Belgium, and especially within the Brussels-Capital Region. The Direction of Monuments and Sites (currently urban.brussels) is draftig an official scientific inventory of the architectural heritage in the Region since 1993, for which architects' houses are included as one of the identified typologies, yet as the project was still ongoing, the official inventory was at the time only complete for four of the nineteen municipalities of Brussels and partially set up for four others. In consequence, there was no general database available on the building type for Brussels, nor existed there another overview or research project on this housing type. Therefore, the main objective of the master thesis was to document and understand the quantity, variety and evolution of architects’ houses in the Brussels-Capital Region.
In light of this objective, three new assessment tools were developed to examine the architects' houses in Brusels. First, a register was composed of all architects' houses encountered during an extensive literature search. Secondly, the houses in the register were subjected to a multi-criteria analysis investigating among other aspects their geographical location, chronological and typological evolution and the presence of an architectural studio. Lastly, based on the outcomes of the multi-criteria analsysis, a documentary fiche was set up to document the specificity of individual architects' houses. In addition, seen that for the master thesis in architectural engineering at the VUB in 2015-2016 an integrated design assignment had to be linked to the research, it was observed that in order to qualitatively preserve these houses, a fourth tool had to be developed linking the architectural-historical research to a value assessment in practice.
The master thesis was written at the VUB, under the research supervision of Inge Bertels and Stephanie Van de Voorde and the design supervision of Jonas Lindekens
Architects' houses in the Brussels-Capital Region, 1830-1970
In 2016, the newly established register was composed of 252 architects’ houses located throughout the entire Brussels-Capital Region. It offered a first extensive overview of the building type as it included both the exceptionally well documented gems of the city as well as rather unknown ones that were hardly studied or valorized. The register was further detailed and extended during the PhD project and was transformed in a database which currently holds 365 architects' houses built between 1830 and 1970. The data sets of each of these houses are available in a condensed format on this website.
Multi-criteria analysis & documentary fiches
Profound analysis of entire set of architects' houses & five detailed case studies
All houses included in the register were subject to a profound study through which the building type of architects' houses was analyzed within the Brussels context. By assessing the vast amount of architects' houses through the lens of several criteria, such as geographical location and the creative ambitions that the architect pursued with this particular design, a first understanding of the building type was generated. This framework was further developed on a macro and meso scale during the PhD research in order to identify the significance of architects' houses as a building type and to retrieve their corresponding heritage values.
Wihin the framework of the master thesis, documentary fiches were also drafted to study and report on individual cases and their specific qualities. These fiches, which were completed for five cases by means of ‘test case’, allow in-depth and comparative research. Thoughout the PhD research, these fiches were further fine-tuned and integrated in the toolkit to be easily implemented in the workflow of various stakeholders.
Private residence of Louis Herman De Koninck in Ukkel, 1924
The documentary fiches proved useful within a comparative study, but were also of interest to highlight the potential of specific architects’ houses to be listed as architectural heritage through the ease of documenting, the assessment of the current state and the alterations as well as the values identified within architectural history. When the potential is considerably high, it is moreover interesting to make a detailed value assessment of the specific dwelling in order to pin-point the specific strengths and qualities to be preserved throughout future projects. Based on the documentary fiches, the private residence of Louis Herman De Koninck (1924, Ukkel) was selected as a test-case to be explored through the design assignment seen that its potential was estimated as exceedingly high. De Koninck demonstrated to what extent the personal house of an architect could be used as a tool in order to strengthen his profession: he transformed his house in an everlasting experiment while exploring the innovative concept of Existenzminimum and testing and fine-tuning several new construction techniques and materials over time. Thereby, the private dwelling of the architect documents his professional evolution over more than 40 years. During the design assigmment, the private residence of Louis Herman De Koninck was historically analysed and a reconversion project to a house museum was set up. The result is summerized in a design portfolio and visually supported by a physical model.