Special Edition – Belgium The Next Generation
Lisa De Visscher (Ed.)
A+, June-July 2020
At the previous edition of the Architecture Biennale in Venice, the architects Jan De Vylder, Inge Vinck and Jo Taillieu, together with Gideon Boie and Filip Dujardin, won the “Silver Lion for a promising young participant” for their project “Caritas”. The ceremony coincided with the birthday of Jan De Vylder. He turned 50 that day.
Young is a flexible concept and as an architect, the label “promising” sometimes does not seem to have an expiration date. Belgium now has a good number of architects, in their forties and fifties, such as the mentioned group, who with their oeuvre set the tone within the international architecture discourse. These established architects have built stable offices with talented employees, carry out larger scale assignments and teach at renowned universities. They no longer need the stamp “young” to draw attention to their work.
But who is the real upcoming talent? Who are people in their twenties and thirties and what do they make? Where’s the new generation taking over?
Thanks to the pioneering work of previous generations of architects and a favorable architecture policy, Belgium has experienced an unprecedented revival of architectural culture since the start of this millennium. This creates a fertile environment in which young talent can thrive. When compiling this publication, we noticed once again how numerous these young agencies are and how diverse their production is. To make a selection, we just pulled out baselines. We went looking for the so-called “millennials”, the group that was born in the 1980s and 1990s and was formed by their studies and first work experience at the beginning of this century. Architects who start their offices in the fragile years just after the financial crisis and in full socio-economic upheavals in which climate plays an increasingly important role. But even more than age, a common frame of reference prevailed for us, a (design) attitude that is not so much expressed in the form or format of the work that has been done, but in the substantive response to contemporary challenges. We also tried to pinpoint that extremely interesting period in the development of an architectural firm in which young architects, after a series of small, exciting and promising realizations, suddenly get much larger assignments. The period in which it is important not to let the fresh energy of the first designs be suppressed by an (too fast) increase in scale. The period in which you come to the conclusion that you must be able to formulate what you stand for.