Freitag, 8. März | 10:50

Quality as a Bridge between Architecture and Politics

The 'Vlaamse Bouwmeester' and his team are an independent task force working directly under the Minister President of Flanders. Our mission is to promote spatial and architectural quality in Flanders, to assist local governments in the realisation of public projects and to help them in being good clients. Our main instrument to so is called 'Open Call', a two step procedure we assist the client to make a correct project definition (in order to get better answers we raise the quality of the question) and where in two steps we boil down the number of candidates for a project from 10 to a final number of 3 to 5 team that will participate in the design competition.

Next to that it is our job to communicate as broad as possible towards politicians and towards the population about the main challenges that our society today is facing on the level of architecture, urban design, including underlying issues of fundamental ecology and sustainability. The instruments we use here are pilot projects and research by design that is coupled to implementation. For us it is crucial that research ends in built results and doesn’t die in the dust on a bookshelf.

As 5th Bouwmeester my policy plan starts from a correction of the actual debate on sustainability. Our bias on climate change and greenhouse gasses makes us almost blind for a far bigger challenge: land use and biodiversity. If we only look at emissions we will not aim any further than a climate-neutral way of eradicating nature. We forget that nature needs space, we forget that we treat our planet as an athlete from whom we expect top performances while we forbid her to drink and – by covering her skin – we forbid her to sweat. Land is the self regulating surface of our planetary body and we totally fail to question our excessive land use. In order to tackle this and undo suburban sprawl, in order to demolish, to rewild and to give back land to nature, our sector has to play a leading role. Spatial planning is the tool by excellence to design a new sustainable footprint and to shrink the surface of human presence on the planet. In that perspective baucultur and architectural quality become far more important and get a whole new meaning. We will need the highest design talent and the most appealing architecture to make people long for urban higher density housing solutions, to work on affordable urban housing solutions, and to make people trade car-dependent suburban locations for better housing locations in more urban areas.

In Flanders it is required that a Bouwmeester has a broad experience and affinity both with the daily practice as with theory and governance. To avoid conflicts of interest the private architectural office of a Bouwmeester cannot participate in tenders for public projects for Flemish authorities during his assignment.

The Bouwmeester and his team form a completely independent task force that has the freedom to tackle and discuss any issue related to the field of architecture and urban design and has the obligation to give advice to any public stakeholder that asks for it. However, all our advices are non-compulsory ones. The Bouwmeester has no power but a lot of influence. This way the relation between the Bouwmeester and politics can be harmonized and can be kept constructive. We use quality as a way to assist politicians in achieving goals that support the common interests of our society.

Leo Van Broeck graduated as an architect from the University of Leuven in 1981. He started teaching there in 1995 before becoming a professor of architectural and urban design in 2006. He has also been involved as a guest tutor in various architectural programmes and public organizations. In 1997 he established the non-profit organization Stad en Architectuur. In 2007 he and Oana Bogdan founded the architecture firm Bogdan & Van Broeck, an office with a strong focus on research that distinguishes itself through active social engagement. In addition, from 2013 till 2016 Leo Van Broeck chaired the Royal Federation of Architecture Societies in Belgium (FAB). On 1st September 2016 Leo Van Broeck was appointed the new Flemish Government Architect.