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Architects’ houses in the Brussels-Capital Region (1830-1970)

Les maisons d’architecte en Région de Bruxelles-Capitale (1830-1970)
Architectenwoningen in het Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest (1830-1970)
Stephanie Van de Voorde, Linsy Raaffels, Barbara Van der Wee et Inge Bertels
Traduction(s) :
Les maisons d’architecte en Région de Bruxelles-Capitale (1830-1970) [fr]
Architectenwoningen in het Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest (1830-1970)  [nl]

Résumés

Les maisons d’architecte constituent une catégorie de logements à part, qui revêtent une signification particulière en tant que « carte de visite » de l’architecte, projet expérimental, aboutissement ou synthèse de l’ensemble de son œuvre, englobant des caractéristiques stylistiques, géographiques, techniques, sociales et autres. Toutefois, afin de saisir pleinement l’importance et la valeur ajoutée de ce genre architectural, il est essentiel de disposer d’un cadre théorique et typologique bien défini pour comprendre les maisons d’architecte. Sur la base des données recueillies à partir d’inventaires et de documents existants, de recherches dans les archives et de visites sur le terrain, un vaste registre dans lequel sont recensées 370 maisons d’architecte de la Région de Bruxelles-Capitale a été établi, qui constitue le point de départ de l’analyse. Ce registre se concentre sur la période de 1830 à 1970, au cours de laquelle la construction de maisons d’architecte et de logements en général s’est intensifiée. Il comprend des maisons d’architecte emblématiques et célèbres, ainsi que des exemples moins connus, dans des proportions à peu près égales : nombre de ces édifices n’étaient pas répertoriés auparavant et peuvent désormais être qualifiés à juste titre de maisons d’architecte. Témoignant de la diversité de ces maisons, le registre constitue la base indispensable pour apprécier de manière approfondie les différents cas, ainsi que la maison d’architecte en tant que type de bâtiment particulier.

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Entrées d’index

Mots-clés :

patrimoine, histoire, logement

Keywords:

heritage, history, housing
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Notes de la rédaction

In order to see the figures in a better resolution, go to the article online and click on “Original” below it.

Notes de l’auteur

The paper has its origin in a research project conducted in 2016-2021 by Linsy Raaffels under the supervision of Stephanie Van de Voorde, Inge Bertels and Barbara Van der Wee (funded by Innoviris).

Texte intégral

1. When architects become their own client

1When architects embark on the design and construction of their own homes, they assume a unique role, serving as both the creators and recipients of their architectural vision. This dynamic relationship frees them from many of the constraints typically encountered when designing for external clients, allowing their houses to become pure expressions of their architectural beliefs, ideas, and intentions. Consequently, architects' houses often serve as experimental designs, architectural manifestos, or poignant calling cards, captivating the imagination of observers.

2In recent decades, scholars worldwide have shown a growing interest in architects’ houses, conducting case studies that offer new insights into specific examples. Individually, each of these case studies often unveils a remarkable narrative of how exceptional circumstances materialised within specific cultural, geographical, professional and societal contexts. Taken as a whole, the comparison and juxtaposition of these case studies highlight specific aspects of the distinctive client-designer relationship and thus create a better understanding of the building type in itself. Several noteworthy publications explicitly go beyond the level of individual case studies. For instance, the book One hundred houses for one hundred European architects of the XXth century [Postiglione et al., 2004] and the online inventory of Iconic Houses built in the 20th century [Drabbe, 2024] showcase architects’ houses with an exemplary architectural and interior design quality. Compilation works that study particular types of architects’ houses help to understand the experiment, prototype, manifest or calling card as archetypes. For instance, Activism at Home [Gosseye and Doucet, 2021] focuses on houses that articulate social, political or cultural critiques through experimentation, while Architects’ houses [Webb, 2018] highlight residences that represent ecological statements. Some studies have focused on specific geographical regions or cultural contexts, such as the Dutch publication Het huis van de architect [Krabbe, Smit and Smit, 1999] and Der architekt und sein haus [Reuter, 2001] for the German-speaking countries. Notably, in 2007, the Flemish Agency for Built Heritage conducted a preliminary study on architects' houses included in the official inventory of built heritage in Flanders, resulting in a memorandum of criteria for future listings [Braeken, 2007; Agentschap Onroerend Erfgoed, 2024].

3For the Brussels-Capital Region, such studies on architects’ houses are lacking. While the aforementioned publications and research projects serve as valuable reference points and contribute conceptual insights, their findings often lack applicability to the broader architectural landscape due to their specific agenda, the fragmented nature of their research sample, or their exclusive focus on renowned and exemplary cases. Therefore, to adequately grasp the diversity and intricacies inherent in the architectural landscape of Brussels, we advocate for an expanded scope that encompasses not only exemplary and archetypical cases but also lesser-known examples, with less immediately apparent heritage value. By adopting this inclusive perspective, we aim to transition from merely analysing isolated instances to conducting a comprehensive typological analysis and, in doing so, pave the way for the development of a more robust theoretical framework concerning architects' houses.

2. Tracing patterns and interpreting specificities

4To grasp the significance and added value of both the architect’s house as a distinctive building type and of individual cases, the research requires for both inductive and deductive reasoning. The inductive, bottom-up approach is based on the compilation and explorative analysis of a relatively large sample of cases, which are studied in a quantitative as well as a qualitative way. The cases encompass not only iconic houses but also seemingly ordinary ones, to cover the entire spectrum. The enlarged scope enables the identification and proper understanding of larger trends, general evolutions, particular dynamics and recurring patterns. This involves both tangible aspects (e.g. the programme, stylistic features and how they are embedded in the urban fabric), as well as more intangible and sometimes complex aspects (e.g. the ambitions of the architect or the position of the house within the larger architectural or building culture).

5Identifying recurrent patterns and common typological characteristics creates a theoretical framework that facilitates positioning individual cases within larger developments and allows for broad and in-depth comparisons between cases using a deductive approach. This method also enables a more comprehensive approach to case study research, which can reveal features whose value and significance might otherwise remain hidden. For instance, if an architect designed more than one personal house throughout his career, the comparison of these houses might show a remarkable difference or evolution, thus introducing an extra layer of significance in particular features.

6The twofold approach, both inductive and deductive, enables a more proper recognition and interpretation of the specific features and heritage value of each case. Given the fact that heritage values such as quality, uniqueness or representativeness are attributed not only in absolute terms but also in relation to other cases, both the wide scope (not only iconic houses, but also seemingly ordinary ones) and the broad approach (not only archetypical but also other inherent, typical characteristics of architects’ houses) are crucial for a proper value assessment, hence the need for an extensive research basis.

7In 2016, the feasibility and relevance of such an extensive research basis were demonstrated in the framework of a master’s thesis on architects’ houses in the Brussels-Capital Region (BCR) [Raaffels, 2016]. Beginning with architects’ houses already listed in the inventory of built heritage [urban.brussels, 2020] and adding nearly an equal number of cases not previously recognised as architects’ houses, the master thesis revealed that the quantitative and qualitative importance of architects’ houses in the BCR had not yet been fully grasped. Highlighting the need for more profound research, the thesis served as the direct impetus for a larger research project on architects’ houses, some of the results of which are presented in this article. The research was conducted across the 19 municipalities of the BCR, covering the period from 1830 to 1970. This chronological focus was justified by the preliminary results of the master thesis: only two cases built before 1830 could be identified (Louis-Jozef Montoyer, Brussels, 1784, demolished; Laurent-Benoît Dewez, Brussels, 1789; figure 1) while from the mid-1960s onwards, architects increasingly moved away from the BCR to the neighbouring municipalities [Haelterman, 2020].

Figure 1. The personal residence of Jean-Baptiste Dewez (Brussels, 1789)

Figure 1. The personal residence of Jean-Baptiste Dewez (Brussels, 1789)

It is the oldest architects’ house in the Brussels-Capital Region that still exists today. [Linsy Raaffels, 09/05/2018].

3. A detailed register as the fundamental base for the study

8In literature on the topic, there are many interpretations of what can be considered as an architects’ house. Therefore, primarily, it is imperative to establish a clear definition. In the framework of this research, an architect’s house is defined as “the house designed by an architect with the intention to use it as their personal residence”. This definition contains three fundamental criteria. First, the house must be designed by an “architect”. Given that an architectural degree became mandatory for practising architecture in Belgium only from 1939 onwards [Federale overheidsdienst Justitie, 1939: 1942], all professionals whose main occupation was the design of buildings and also profiled themselves as an architect were taken into account, regardless of their education or training. The second criterion, i.e. “designed”, is likewise to be interpreted widely: not only newly designed houses are included, but also transformations of existing buildings, upon the condition that the transformations are meaningful and telling with respect to the client-designer dynamics. The third criterion, houses “intended to be used as their personal residence”, excludes mere investment properties, while, on the other hand, houses where the architect might have never lived, e.g. due to changes in their financial or personal situation during the construction of the house, were included.

9To identify cases that meet this definition, first of all, the official Inventory of built heritage of the Brussels-Capital Region was scrutinised [Braeken and Mondelaers, 1989; 1993; 1994; urban.brussels, 2024]. This inventory was started in 1989 and has been continuously expanded by the Cultural Heritage department of urban.brussels (previously Brussels Urbanism and Heritage, the administrative body in charge of implementing regional policies in relation to urban development, cultural heritage and urban revitalisation in the BCR). The inventory is not based on geographically exhaustive research: nine municipalities of the BCR are fully covered (taking into account that establishing a heritage inventory is in fact an ongoing process and never finished), while the remaining ten municipalities have been partially investigated. The inventory categorises buildings according to building type, with architects’ houses being one of those types. In 2020, 220 buildings in the inventory were categorised as architects’ houses. Yet, the interpretation and criteria differ slightly from our research: the inventory includes only relatively intact buildings with recognised heritage value, while investment properties or houses originally designed for someone else are occasionally categorised as architects’ houses. Taking into account these discrepancies, 23 registered architects’ houses in the inventory were not included in this research.

10In order to obtain a research sample covering the full breadth of architects’ houses throughout the BCR, the list of 197 houses was complemented with houses that were not yet identified as such in the inventory. This occurred in distinct stages. First, a close reading of architectural journals was performed. Secondly, or rather simultaneously, architects working, and possibly residing, in the BCR were traced. As architects were not obliged to register as practising architects until 1963 [Federale overheidsdienst Justitie, 1963: 6945], this was done indirectly by examining architects who taught at the different schools for architecture in the BCR. For both La Cambre and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (which was transformed into l'Institut supérieur d'architecture intercommunal Victor Horta in 1980 and merged with La Cambre into the Faculté d’architecture of the Université libre de Bruxelles in 2009), such lists of teachers were available [Van Loo, Delevoy and Culot, 1979]; [Archives d’Architecture Moderne AAM, 1989]. In contrast, various archival sources were scrutinised to compose an exploratory overview for the Saint-Luc/Sint-Lucas schools in Schaerbeek and Saint-Gilles. The resulting list of over 800 names was partially supplemented with potential addresses through extensive literature and archival research. Whether these addresses were their private residence(s) was verified using the Trade and Industry Almanacs [Perichon et al., 1820-1969]. As a result, 181 additional architects’ houses were identified, resulting in a register of 378 architects’ houses, built by 335 different architects (figure 2). Even though not completely exhaustive, the register comprises an extremely high number of cases for one region and includes both well-documented gems and rather unknown ones, resulting in a broad and representative research sample. Approximately 10 % of the houses are currently fully or partially protected, yet at least 24 % have been renovated, adjusted or transformed (to various extents) and 4 % have been demolished. For the other cases, information regarding their current conservation status has not been retrieved.

Figure 2. Innovative contribution of the research in comparison to the cases included in the official inventory (absolute numbers per municipality) [Raaffels, 2020].

Figure 2. Innovative contribution of the research in comparison to the cases included in the official inventory (absolute numbers per municipality) [Raaffels, 2020].

4. Mapping architects’ houses: chronological, geographical and thematic analysis

11The unique and comprehensive register on architects’ houses in the BCR serves as the starting point for exploring the significance of architects’ houses as a building type. Key attributes such as location, typology and the year of obtaining the building permit were collected and examined, with the development of architectural culture and history in the BCR as a necessary backdrop. Additional factors, including the presence of an architectural studio, duration of the architect’s residency, career stage during construction, and publication exposure, were also integrated into the analysis. Various maps, graphs and charts were drafted to interpret and present the extensive dataset comprehensively, revealing trends and correlations among different characteristics. This article presents four major analyses pivotal for establishing a theoretical-typological framework on architects’ houses. We first discuss the chronological and geographical distribution of all architects’ houses identified in the BCR across the entire period. Subsequently, typological findings regarding shape, size and plot are explored. The presence and characteristics of an architectural office are further analysed as distinctive features of this building type. Finally, we delve into the duration of occupancy and potential motives behind constructing a new house.

4.1. Evolution in time and space

12In the 1830s, when Brussels was still confined to the so-called Pentagon, hardly 20 architects were recorded in the Almanacs [Perichon et al., 1832-34]. This number might seem rather low, especially because architecture had already become separated from the other arts in the late 18th century through specialised education [Braeken, 2007]. Yet in practice, the profession of architect often remained intertwined with the profession of contractor, entrepreneur, draftsman or surveyor. Consequently, not all professionals practising architecture at the time profiled themselves as architects in the Almanacs. Moreover, until halfway the 19th century, an architect’s status was defined more by state commissions than by small-scale realisations in the private housing sector, if there even were any. Therefore, despite the fact that the total number of architects listed in the Almanacs grew to about 60 in 1860, only six architects’ houses were identified between 1830 and 1860 (figures 3 and 4).

Figure 3. Map indicating the geographical and chronological evolution of architects' houses in the Brussels-Capital Region [Raaffels, 2020]

Figure 3. Map indicating the geographical and chronological evolution of architects' houses in the Brussels-Capital Region [Raaffels, 2020]

Figure 4. Evolution of architects’ houses 1835-1970 [Raaffels, 2020]

Figure 4. Evolution of architects’ houses 1835-1970 [Raaffels, 2020]

13By that time, several rural villages around Brussels had slowly developed into emerging suburbs. In that context, the Plan général pour l'extension et l'embellissement de l'agglomération bruxelloise was established in 1862 to structure further urbanisation, while stimulating large, punctual interventions [De Beule et al., 2017: 36-38]. As a result, more architects stepped forward – almost 120 by 1870 – also making the phenomenon of architects’ houses more apparent from 1885 onwards.

14Between 1860 and 1885, about 23 architects’ houses were identified, dispersed around the Pentagon. The first to deviate from this pattern was Hyppolite Jaumot with his personal dwelling up north in Schaerbeek in 1888 (figure 5). He was thereby the first to respond to the spectacular demographic growth within this municipality (from 1 131 inhabitants by the beginning of the 19th century to 64 583 by 1899) [Berckmans and de Pange, 2014]. Simultaneously, the demand for newly built houses also started to increase elsewhere in Brussels, as the entire city was subject to a vast demographic growth stimulated by the second industrial revolution [De Beule et al., 2017: p. 17]. Therefore, by the end of the 19th century, more architects followed Jaumot’s example, positioning themselves within newly emerging districts. They had an excellent opportunity to expand their businesses, either by attracting various new clients for individual commissions or by directly participating in the urbanisation process as architects-entrepreneurs and possibly developing entire building lots with investment properties, like Henri Van Massenhove (1860-1934) [Raaffels, et. al., 2020]. It thus comes as no surprise that almost half of all architects’ houses included in the register were erected during the limited timeframe of the following three decades (1885-1914). The sudden increase highlights the popularity of some neighbourhoods, such as the so-called District of the Squares, situated to the east of the Brussels’ city centre. Characterised by its vibrant urban development, this area experienced a significant surge in construction activity between 1895 and 1905, transforming it into a densely urbanised region [Berckmans and Genon, 2009]. During this period, no less than 28 architects’ houses were constructed within this district. Another notable cluster of architects’ houses can be observed around the Avenue Louise, an important and prestigious axis stretching between the centre of Brussels and the Bois de la Cambre, in the southeast of the city.

Figure 5. Personal residence of Hyppolite Jaumot in Schaarbeek [Linsy Raaffels, 09/05/2018]

Figure 5. Personal residence of Hyppolite Jaumot in Schaarbeek [Linsy Raaffels, 09/05/2018]

Hyppolite was the first architect to construct his personal house outside the Pentagon, thereby responding to the spectacular demographic growth at the end of the 19th century.

15The rise of architects’ houses was abruptly interrupted by the First World War, and only revived in 1921. Especially the advent of the Modernist Movement served as a new stimulus for the construction of architects’ houses as they were often prime examples of innovative ideas. With the increasing urbanisation of Brussels, the southern part of Uccle and the northern part of Laeken were particularly appealing to architects as many of them preferred the tranquillity of these suburban areas over the bustling neighbourhoods in which they used to cluster together [Verhofstadt, 2016]. Consequently, a remarkable 23 % of the newly erected architects’ houses in the interwar period was built in these two municipalities. The outbreak of the Second World War ceased this growth once again and a steadier evolution followed, with only 62 additional architects’ houses being built in the entire region over the next 30 years. This rather low number is in part due to the increasing interest among architects for the Brussels outskirts, including municipalities as Linkebeek, Rhode-Saint-Genèse and Tervuren.

16From an overall geographical point of view, most architects’ houses built in the BCR between 1830 and 1970 are located on the eastern (and wealthier) side of the canal axis Charleroi-Willebroek. Even more, over two thirds (71,7 %) of all architects’ houses are situated within the eastern half of Brussels and the first belt of municipalities Etterbeek, Ixelles, Schaerbeek, Saint-Josse-ten-Noode and Saint-Gilles). This can be explained by the industrial development of the western side of the canal, which especially attracted the working-class. Therefore, the socio-demographic structure of the different districts, and thus their potential to offer new work opportunities, as well as the intention to ascertain their social status, clearly influenced architects when deciding where to build their own residence.

4.2. Diverging plot choices and typological preferences

17In addition to the evolution of when and where architects’ houses were built, analysing other characteristics such as typological preferences or plot choices is essential to contextualising architects’ houses within the broader development of housing construction in the BCR.

18The most prevalent residential style in the 19th century in the BCR is the terraced house with a facade typically spanning five to seven metres, positioned on an elongated, rectangular plot. Prior to World War I, over 90 % of all architects’ houses followed this pattern. However, one in five deviates from this norm, featuring corner houses or terraced structures situated on irregularly shaped plots. Edouard Elle’s (1859-1911) house (Brussels, 1897) for instance occupies a triangular plot on the inner bend of a curved street. Similarly, Octave Van Rysselberghe’s (1855-1927) private house (Ixelles, 1912; figure 6) is set on a small plot (6 by 6 metres) with a blind rear facade. These unconventional parcels were often more affordable, challenging architects’ creativity while providing an opportunity for distinction [Verhofstadt, 2016].

Figure 6. Personal dwelling of Octave Van Rysselberghe (Ixelles, 1912) [Linsy Raaffels, 09/05/2018].

Figure 6. Personal dwelling of Octave Van Rysselberghe (Ixelles, 1912) [Linsy Raaffels, 09/05/2018].

The turret that houses the staircase indicates how Van Rysselberghe responded to the urban regulations imposing a blind rear façade with an original layout.

19From the 1920s onwards, as architects migrated to less urbanised regions offering larger plots, they increasingly explored semi-detached or freestanding housing types (figure 7). This trend is particularly evident in Uccle and Watermael-Boitsfort, which approximately 60 % of all freestanding and semi-detached houses in the register are located. The southern part of Uccle, in particular, saw a surge in this trend due to the availability of sizable building lots in previously rural areas without specific urbanisation plans. This allowed for experimentation with non-traditional housing types, often surrounded by park-like gardens [Egrix, 2016]. The nearly fully glazed private residence (Uccle, 1966) of Lucien-Jacques Baucher (1929), situated on a plot of over four ares, exemplifies this trend [Raaffels et al., 2019]. Additionally, during the interwar period, apartments gained popularity, with detached houses and apartments together representing the majority of newly constructed architects’ houses after World War II.

Figure 7. Map indicating the typological distribution of architects' houses in the Brussels-Capital Region [Raaffels, 2020]

Figure 7. Map indicating the typological distribution of architects' houses in the Brussels-Capital Region [Raaffels, 2020]

4.3. The integration of professional spaces in a private environment

20Throughout the research, plans of almost half of all architects’ houses in the register were retrieved, enabling the assessment of spaces dedicated to the architectural profession. Remarkably, over 95 % of the analysed plans revealed traces of professional activity within the house, while only eight houses were exclusively dedicated to the private life of the architect. Within this 95 %, three main categories of architectural offices were identified: 1) private offices where the architect worked during evenings or weekends, 2) individual, formal offices where the architect both worked and received clients, and 3) larger, official offices where the architect collaborated with employees. The research revealed that over 70 % of the encountered offices fell into the 3rd category of shared, formal offices, with the earliest example dating back to 1869. Another 20 % were individual formal offices, and only 10 % were solely private offices. Moreover, both categories of formal offices were found throughout the entire investigated period, while private offices, as well as houses without any professional activity, were only found from 1900 onwards. Although this suggests that most architects’ houses were intentionally designed as fully operational studio houses, especially before 1900, there is an important discrepancy between the plans and reality. Often, architects only implemented their professional activities after living in the house for a few years, while others relocated their in-house offices elsewhere over time, for instance, when the office outgrew the provided space. Nevertheless, the majority of architects’ houses accommodated private and professional activities simultaneously at some point, irrespective of geographical location, construction date, typological layout or size of the house. Despite variations in the relationship between private and professional spaces in each case, they shared a fundamental principle: even in private offices, professional quarters were always directly accessible from the entrance, either through the hallway or immediately via the adjoining staircase. This ensured that potential clients and employees did not interfere with the private life of the occupants.

21Each category also had additional defining characteristics. Individual private offices typically consisted of a single office space, sometimes adjacent to a cloakroom, for the exceptional occasion that a client would be invited to the house. In the case of small formal offices, they typically featured a second bureau, along with a vestibule, antechamber and/or vestiaire, all of which could serve as waiting rooms and cloakrooms. These spaces were almost always situated exclusively on the ground floor, effectively minimising the circulation of clients within the house. Consequently, a significant portion of the ground floor (often at least half, or in rare cases, the entire floor) was allocated to professional activities. Notably, in three instances within this category, the architectural office was housed in a separate building on the plot. Regarding the third category, large formal offices typically included a spacious drawing room for employees and a separate office for the architect. In over 75 % of the cases, these offices also featured additional rooms for auxiliary functions, such as archives, libraries and genuine waiting rooms adjacent to restrooms and cloakrooms. Furthermore secretariats, typist rooms, model rooms, and technical offices became increasingly common from the interwar period onwards. These offices usually occupied half to one-and-a-half floor levels. Over 80 % of them remained “in-house” offices, often due to plot constraints unsuitable for additional buildings. In one out of four cases, a separate entrance to the office was provided. These entrances were occasionally positioned in the main facade but more commonly located “behind the corner” (for corner plots) or in the “back” facade (for continuous plots between two streets, figure 8). Despite sharing the same entrance, employees and clients typically diverged immediately after entering the front door: clients were directed to the waiting room and the architect’s office, while employees accessed the drawing room, archive, library, model room, etc. without interfering with the client. This arrangement often resulted in three ingeniously harmonised circulation routes (two professional and one private) within a single house.

Figure 8. Three main categories of architectural offices integrated in architects' private houses. [Collage and editing: Raaffels, 2020]

Figure 8. Three main categories of architectural offices integrated in architects' private houses. [Collage and editing: Raaffels, 2020]

4.4. A once-in-a-lifetime design?

22Based on extensive research in the Almanacs, the register reveals a wide range in the number of years architects resided in the houses they designed for themselves, spanning from one to 61 years, with an average tenure of approximately 20 years (figure 9). However, it’s important to note that the true average is likely higher, considering the incomplete data provided for 30 % of all architects’ houses in the Almanacs. Further analysis indicates that most architects were between 25 and 35 years old when they embarked on the challenge of designing their own homes, typically occurring three to ten years into their careers. However, the average age at which architects designed their personal residence stands at 36, with many architects undertaking this task in their late forties or even later.

23At least one in four architects’ houses was occupied by the architect until his death. Conversely, at least 35 architects designed more than one house for themselves, typically during their late thirties or forties, after nearly 20 years in their careers (figure 10). The motivations behind designing a second house are generally linked to changes in family composition, the expansion of the architectural office, increased financial resources and/or new architectural aspirations. In over 60 % of cases, an individual office was replaced by a shared one, or the studio expanded significantly in terms of auxiliary functions, floor area, or staff. Additionally, the size of the plot increased noticeably in more than half of the cases, from approx. 200 m² to 600 m².

Figure 9. Years spent in the residences designed for themselves and their families [Raaffels, 2020]

Figure 9. Years spent in the residences designed for themselves and their families [Raaffels, 2020]

Figure 10. Age during the design of a first and second personal residence [Raaffels, 2020]

Figure 10. Age during the design of a first and second personal residence [Raaffels, 2020]

Conclusion

24International literature shows a growing interest in architects’ houses due to their unique client-designer dynamics. However, existing literature often focuses on individual cases or specific archetypes, lacking comprehensive typological research. In response, a research project was conducted in 2016-2021, focusing on the Brussels-Capital Region from 1830 to 1970. A key component of this research was the creation of a comprehensive register mapping over 370 architects’ houses. This register, encompassing both well known and lesser-studied cases which often had not been recognised as an architect’s house until now, provides a vital foundation for evaluating individual instances and understanding architects’ houses as a distinct building type.

25The register, unique in its kind, offers insights into general trends and developments, such as the emergence of specific “architects’ districts” near areas of urban development offering major job opportunities. Detailed analyses reveal that over 20 % of all architects opted for non-traditional plots. Additionally, nearly all architects integrated their professional activities into their homes at some point. Plan analyses demonstrate that in the majority of cases, the architectural office extended beyond a private workspace, encompassing several rooms for staff and clients and occupying a significant portion of the house. An examination of occupancy patterns reveals an average occupancy of over 20 years. Yet, changes in both personal and professional life often prompted architects to design a second personal residence.

26While this article discusses only a fraction of the research project’s findings, it sheds light on specific characteristics and qualities of architects’ houses, both at the building type and individual case levels. The research’s open and explorative approach offers insight into the underlying reasons for their design and reveals that architects’ houses possess more “dimensions” than commonly recognised archetypes suggest. For example, the positioning of an architect’s own residence, also in relation to the clientele, often precedes the urbanisation patterns of a city – a phenomenon that warrants further investigation to determine its uniqueness to Brussels or its broader socio-economic implications. Another notable dimension concerns the integration of living and working spaces. While somewhat expected, the prevalence of architectural offices within these houses is striking. The varying degrees of privacy in different rooms, coupled with challenges like corner plots, often resulted in ingeniously orchestrated circulation paths throughout the house. Additionally, there are other typological dimensions not fully explored in this article. These dimensions include the house’s position within the architects’ oeuvre, the contribution of other building actors within the architects’ professional network. For example, investigating collaborations on the private house may unveil how craftsmanship exhibited in the house is the product of repeated, refined interdisciplinary collaboration.

27These typological dimensions vary in presence and significance across cases, and their elaboration differs from one instance to another. While explicitly tied to the dual client-designer relationship, these dimensions offer valuable insights for future case study research, shedding light on how the added value of architects’ houses can be perceived and interpreted in diverse ways. Whether this added value is architectural, urban, historical or heritage-based, its recognition is crucial for the sustainable use, qualitative appreciation, and respectful preservation of these houses.

The authors wish to thank Innoviris, the Brussels Institute for Research and Innovation, for granting financial support to develop the research on architects’ houses for the Brussels-Capital Region. Furthermore, the authors express their gratitude to Tom Verhofstadt for sharing his expertise and knowledge during the set-up of the inventory project, and to the Brussels Studies Institute for awarding the master thesis research Architects’ houses in Brussels: late 18th until the 20th century with the BSI Award 2016. Also special thanks to Tatiana Debroux and Lara Schrijver for their valuable critical voices.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1. The personal residence of Jean-Baptiste Dewez (Brussels, 1789)
Légende It is the oldest architects’ house in the Brussels-Capital Region that still exists today. [Linsy Raaffels, 09/05/2018].
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/7360/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 81k
Titre Figure 2. Innovative contribution of the research in comparison to the cases included in the official inventory (absolute numbers per municipality) [Raaffels, 2020].
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/7360/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 119k
Titre Figure 3. Map indicating the geographical and chronological evolution of architects' houses in the Brussels-Capital Region [Raaffels, 2020]
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/7360/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 201k
Titre Figure 4. Evolution of architects’ houses 1835-1970 [Raaffels, 2020]
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/7360/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 76k
Titre Figure 5. Personal residence of Hyppolite Jaumot in Schaarbeek [Linsy Raaffels, 09/05/2018]
Légende Hyppolite was the first architect to construct his personal house outside the Pentagon, thereby responding to the spectacular demographic growth at the end of the 19th century.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/7360/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 242k
Titre Figure 6. Personal dwelling of Octave Van Rysselberghe (Ixelles, 1912) [Linsy Raaffels, 09/05/2018].
Légende The turret that houses the staircase indicates how Van Rysselberghe responded to the urban regulations imposing a blind rear façade with an original layout.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/7360/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 94k
Titre Figure 7. Map indicating the typological distribution of architects' houses in the Brussels-Capital Region [Raaffels, 2020]
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/7360/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 214k
Titre Figure 8. Three main categories of architectural offices integrated in architects' private houses. [Collage and editing: Raaffels, 2020]
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/7360/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 7,5M
Titre Figure 9. Years spent in the residences designed for themselves and their families [Raaffels, 2020]
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/7360/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 70k
Titre Figure 10. Age during the design of a first and second personal residence [Raaffels, 2020]
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/7360/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 322k
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Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Stephanie Van de Voorde, Linsy Raaffels, Barbara Van der Wee et Inge Bertels, « Architects’ houses in the Brussels-Capital Region (1830-1970)  »Brussels Studies [En ligne], Collection générale, n° 191, mis en ligne le 21 avril 2024, consulté le 19 mai 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/7360 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/brussels.7360

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Auteurs

Stephanie Van de Voorde

Stephanie Van de Voorde (MSc and PhD in Architectural Engineering, Ghent University, 2005 & 2011) holds a chair in Architectural and Construction History and Heritage at the department of Architectural Engineering at Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). Her expertise and research interests are related to, among other things, 20th-century building materials, young heritage, building culture, construction ecologies, deconstruction and reuse (cf. thematic session on ‘Deconstruction, salvage, and reuse in Construction History’ at the 8th International Conference on Construction History, Zurich, 2024).
Stephanie.Van.de.Voorde[at]vub.be

Linsy Raaffels

Linsy Raaffels (MSc in Architectural Engineering, VUB, 2016) worked as a researcher at VUB Architectural Engineering in 2016-2022, focusing on architects’ houses in Brussels (financed by Innoviris). See for instance “Business cards of stone, timber and concrete. The architect’s own house as a commercial tool” (Bulletin KNOB 119(2)). Currently she serves as coordinator and heritage consultant within the intercommunal heritage department IGEMO, focusing on cultural, architectural, landscape, and archaeological heritage in the Rivierenland region.
linsy.raaffels[at]gmail.com

Barbara Van der Wee

Barbara Van der Wee is an architect and founder of Barbara Van der Wee Architects - studio for architecture & conservation, based in Brussels, Belgium. Her office focuses on the restoration, conversion and updating of 19th and 20th century monuments, including a large number of art nouveau buildings of architect Victor Horta. For more than 30 years she was, she was lecturer at the Raymond Lemaire International Centre for Conservation of the KU Leuven (B). In 2010 she became a member of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts.


b.vanderwee[at]barbaravanderwee.be

Inge Bertels

Inge Bertels is a historian (KULeuven, 1998) and master in Conservation (R. Lemaire Centre for Conservation KULeuven, 2000). Her personal research focuses on 19th and 20th-century construction history, architectural and urban history. Since 2018, she holds a fulltime position as professor in architectural history and building culture at the Faculty of Design Sciences of the Universiteit Antwerpen. She is one of the editors of Construction History: international journal of the Construction History Society.
inge.bertels[at]uantwerpen.be

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