Flanders Offers A Rich Béton Vein For Lovers Of
There’s no better way to discover some of Belgium’s concrete nuggets than through the eyes of locals. Emerald Liu from Ghent gives us an insider’s view of what to see and why. Her images are taken during what she describes as the ‘golden hour’. Photographer, Rik Vannevel, of Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens captures the Van Wassenhove House in an entirely different way. The colour of the concrete can range from the golden glow Emerald experienced through to the stark concrete greys or Rik Vannevel’s images.
Emerald shares, ‘Wandering through Sint-Martens-Latem on an Indian summer’s evening, Contax camera in hand, I went in search of a brutalist gem. I had first consciously taken note of Van Wassenhove House when researching the work of Juliaan Lampens, who came to my attention via a recommendation from a Colombian architect friend. To my surprise, I discovered one of his prime works is hidden within one of the many leafy streets within my village.’
‘Locally referred to as “the bunker” it is a bachelor pad tailor-made to Albert Van Wassenhove’s requirements. The teacher and art enthusiast fell in love with Lampens’ work after visiting the Chapel of Pilgrimage Our Lady of Kerselare in Oudenaarde and commissioned him to create a home with a similar aesthetic, giving the architect a free rein. The result is a distinct house constructed out of concrete, glass, and wood in perfect harmony with its surroundings.
‘Shooting during the golden hour allowed me to experience first-hand the warmth which radiates from the house, producing the same tones and shades which donned the local river De Leie its nickname; the golden river. Closer viewing reveals how the concrete surfaces are textured as woodgrain, inducing a tactile curiosity. Combining rigidity with the organic Lampens’ manages to harmoniously meld the two to form a home that oozes tranquillity. It is a joy to see how the lighting, the house, and its surroundings change and transform with the times of the day and the seasons.’
Today the house is protected and cared for by Dhondt-Dhaenens Museum in Deurle. Restored in 2015, it is now possible to book short overnight stays in the house.
‘Another villa located amidst the woods of the village which piqued my interest is House Muller sometimes known as Villa M.’ Emerald shares, ‘It is a 1977 modernist house designed by Ivan Van Mossevelde for Professor Henri Muller. It is situated along a walking trail overlooking the marshlands. Surrounded by greenery, the red brick and curved edges of the villa stand out and tempt the viewer, while the windows reflect the abundant foliage of the surroundings with an enigmatic lustre’.
‘There are several other private residences in the village designed by Van Mossevelde and the local town hall which he built in the late ’90s.’
‘Louvain-la-Neuve is a planned city, southeast of Brussels, in the French-speaking part of the country. It was built to be the home of the Université Catholique de Louvain. However, after the linguistic clashes during the 1960s between the Flemish and the Walloons, the University was split and partially relocated. The Dutch Katholieke Universiteit is now in Leuven and the Université Catholic de Louvain is in Louvain-La-Neuve’.
‘The new city of Louvain-La-Neuve was built in the 1970s, it’s an interesting experiment in New Urbanism with a really strong focus on the needs of the pedestrians rather than the automobiles’.
Greyscape: The challenge urban planners are grappling with is how to revive the centres of towns as we see the collapse of the historic high street. In years to come, Louvain’s model will become more and more commonplace. The Government must commit to meaningfully fund stagnating retail areas in city centres. Louvin’s plan shows how a place can be made family-friendly, remain culturally satisfying and supportive to retailers.
Emerald mentions what enticed her to visit Louvain-La-Neuve, ‘It was the idea of seeing the Brutalist architecture, especially around Place des Sciences. André Jacqmain’s designs are very much in evidence. The Museé L is located in the heart of this area.’
Must-see spots in Belgium for brutalism/modernism:
De Haan’s Park Atlantis – De Haan – Marcel Dubois
Dilbeek’s CC Westrand – Dilbeek – Alfons Hoppenbrouwers
Sint Ritakerk – Harelbeke – Léon Stynen
Ostend municipal pool – Oostende – Paul Felix and Jan Tanghe
Chapel of Pilgrimage Our Lady of Kerselare in Oudenaarde – Juliaan Lampens
Emerald Liu is an architectural copywriter, photographer, poet and illustrator. She has written for The Millions and Karakters and presented her poetry at the Tique. Art Space in Antwerp
She can be found on instagram at www.instagram.com/e.a.liu/
Finally Finding My Waterzooi
Best local Ghent dish:
Best bar in Ghent:
Jiggers perfect spot for hanging out with friends for casual drinks/food
Entertainment: Vooruit Gent
Architecture: The Essential Texts by Louis Kahn
Literature: Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima
Favourite Film: In the mood for love by Wong Kar Wai
Emerald’s Favourite Poets: John Keats, Rocco Scotelaro and Keith Douglas.
Emerald uses a Contax T2 Camera with Fuji Superia 200 film.
Belgium Architects and Designers you can name drop
Ivan Van Mosseverle