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.
Applied PhD Project (Doctiris)
Architects' houses in Brussels. Strategies for valorization.
This four-year research project focussed on architects’ houses as a distinct building type, and surpassed the existing case-study approach by including analyses on the meso (oeuvre and carreer) and macro level (the register and its urban context). As such, the overarching characteristics and qualities of architects’ houses were identified through the lens of the Brussels-Capital Region and subsequent strategies for respectful, qualitative and durable renovation, restoration and valorisation projects to safeguard the future of this remarkable part of our built patrimony were developped.
Departing from the composed register, three main research tracks guided the project. Firstly, the original design intentions and qualities of architects’ houses were studied on various levels (aesthetic, practical, technical, functional, formal, urban, etc.), while the motives and objectives of the architects were questioned: did they design the house as a manifest, a business card or a social or technical laboratory? Secondly, the evolution of architects’ houses over time was looked into, including changes in the buildig type and occupancy. In addition, the interventions or transformations that might have occurred prior to, during or (immediately) after the architect’s residence were mapped and a selection of renovation and restoration projects in Brussels was studied in depth and confronted with (inter-)national cases. As such it was noticed that the valorisation strategies persued by architectural offices were often very project-based and that the identified type-specific values were largely overlooked and not considered in the decision-making process. To bridge the gap between the identified theoretical findings in this project and the current value assessment in practice, it was investigated how this patrimony could be assessed and valorized in a more qualitative way in the future throughout the third and final research track. The definition and assessment of the formerly identified characteristics, together with a profound understanding of the in-house workflow of architectural offices, were the basis for the set-up of easily applicable guidelines and recommendations on how to identify and evaluate the type-specific values. As we had the opportunity within the Doctiris format to also closely work together with the Regional Public Service urban.brussels and various heritage organisations, we were also able to tailor these guidelines in accordance with the needs and workflows of all involved stakeholders, which resulted in the hands-on toolkit available on this website.
About the researcher
Ir. Arch. Linsy Raaffels (°1993), is a PhD researcher at the Architectural Engineering Lab of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). She obtained her degree as Master of Science in Architectural Engineering in 2016 and started in January 2017 on the research project "Architects’ houses in Brussels. Strategies for valorization" in collaboration with Barbara Van der Wee Architects BVBA under the supervision of prof. dr. Inge Bertels (VUB) and prof. dr. Stephanie Van de Voorde (VUB). The project directly builds on her master thesis: "Architects' houses (and ateliers) in Brussels from the late 18th until the 20th century".
Architects' houses (and ateliers) in Brussels from the late 18 until the 20 century
Preceeding master thesis / 2015-2016
In 2016, in order to get a grip on this particular type of housing in Brussels, Raaffels drafted an exhaustive register on architects' houses in the context her master thesis (VUB), including 252 houses designed and occupied by architects in the Brussels-Capital Region. This register was the first in his kind, encompassing the whole territory of the capital region and spanning a large period of time (from the late 18th century until the 1970s).This extensive list was furthermore analyzed through the lens of various characteristics and several cases were selected to be investigated in detail.
Significance of the building type
The findings of the PhD project in terms of the significance of architects' houses as a distinct building type and the type-specific heritage values derived therefrom on the level of individual cases, will be shortly published on the website.
The complete PhD manuscript will be available in the summer of 2021.