Flanders. A land of borders. But above all, a land of transit. Of languages and cultures that lean against each other. A land where identity is an individual matter. In this land, which is averse to chauvinism, the art of taking oneself not too seriously developed. Contradiction turned into a trademark. In art, this is called surrealism: “Ceci n’est pas une architecture—This is not architecture.”
In this land, “where between dream and action there are laws and practical difficulties” one of its poets put it, architecture seems hopeless. And yet... Contemporary architecture does exist in Flanders: between mannerism and minimalism, between the newest objectivity and spectacle. Between the feeling of being Belgian and cosmopolitanism, between contextual and “creatio ex nihilo”, between art and economy, between prose and poetry,...
But this hybridization and distrust with regard to a pure theory of architecture has resulted in “a wonderful deficiency”, namely the invisibility of contemporary architecture in Flanders.
In the past decade various authors have outlined the context and the themes of Flemish architecture. What follows here is a short round-up of these paradigms and a portrait of Flemish architecture based on some thirty contemporary buildings.
Koen Van Synghel, architect-critic