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UPA-BUA Union Professionnelle d'Architectes
Beroepsunie Van Architecten

I. From origin to the 20th century

A short history of belgian architects and their professional organizations

Part I .


The emergence of the function and title of architect

Let's first leap into the distant past to find our roots because if the job of architect is for some "the oldest profession in the world", its designation can be dated with a little more precision.

If one refers to "The history of the architect" (it is in this interesting work published under the direction of Louis Callebat that I could in particular find the information on the appellation which follow), it is in the fifth century BC that one of the first known occurrences of the term "architecton" appears in a writing by the Greek historian Herodotus that identifies the builder of the Samos aqueduct: Eupalinos of Megara.
It should be noted, however, that until the end of the fourth century BC few architects are known and few can be associated with a constructed work that is not really considered as aesthetic object (while painters and sculptors are recognized).

It is interesting to note that it is in Athens, in 337 BC, that for the first time architects appear as "municipal employees" on a register: these ancestors of our civil servant architects already take care of the application of the roads regulations and the maintenance of public buildings but may also be in charge of new constructions.

Closer to home, we must wait until the year 1360 to see the Italian term "architetto" appear (in Petrarch) and the mid-sixteenth century to see the concept of architect emerge in "Vite de 'più eccelenti pittori, scultori ed architettori " by Giorgio Vasari.

The first known instance in French dates from 1404 in the form of "architect" in a prose work by Christine de Pisan, and in 1510 the word "architect" appears in Jean le Maire ("Trésor de la langue française").

In the Netherlands and Flanders, the word "architect" appears in Pieter Coeke Van Aelst, in the first book in Dutch of architecture in 1539 whereas we have to wait untill 1563 to discover the first English occurrence in the first treaty of architecture written in English by John Shute.

With regard to the official recognition of the title, the year 1671 sees the foundation in France by Colbert of the Royal Academy of Architecture (the academies of painting and sculpture had already been created in 1648) which has the triple function of doctrine development, teaching and management of royal buildings. Its members are then the only ones whose title is protected (but it will be only in 1730 that will be organized a weekly course of architecture in this same academy).

It should be noted, however, that as early as 1638 a brevet d'ingénieur du Roi was instituted and that in 1676 the "Corps des Ingénieurs du Génie Militaire" was created by the Minister Louvois and at the instigation of Sebastien the Prestre de Vauban and Charles Coulomb.
The engineers will only really become "civil" with the creation, in 1716, of the "Corps des Ponts et Chaussées" and thirty years later with the foundation, in Paris, of the "Ecole des Ponts et Chaussées", the first establishment where engineers receive training of their own but which is restricted to "engineering structures" (“ouvrages d’art”).
The Ecole Centrale des Travaux Publics (future Ecole Polytechnique) will not be founded until 1794, by Gaspart Monge.
In German countries, engineering courses will generally be organized in technical universities, mainly from the beginning of the 19th century.

Architecture is making its way in our country

In our regions, official art education only appeared in 1711 with the foundation of the Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels. Other similar foundations will then follow in Bruges (1720), Ghent (1751), Tournai (1757), Kortrijk (1760), Mechelen (1771), Ath (1772), Oudenaarde (1773), Thames (1776), Ypres ( 1778), Liège (1779) and Mons (1781).

The teaching of architecture, however, must wait until 1760 and the impulse of Charles de Lorraine, the governor general of the Netherlands who had construction as a hobbyhorse and complained of not finding a capable architect at home.
Six years later, the teaching of architecture is included for the first time in the program of the Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels. This teaching was followed by many artisans, some of whom became architects. From 1815, however, architecture will be treated in particular section: at that moment we witness the separation of architects and craftsmen.

Charles of Lorraine will also found in Brussels in 1774, a "School of hydraulics" for the recruitment of engineers who were hitherto only trained in military engineering for the construction of fortifications and the survey of cards.
Under the Dutch regime, engineering studies will be organized in our provinces by the very young universities of the State in Ghent (Bridges and Pavements) and Liege (Mines) and in 1831, the new Belgian State will establish a Corps des mines and a Bridges and Highways Administration.

A little later, these two state universities will be joined by the Catholic University in Mechelen (created in 1834, it will be transferred to Leuven in 1835) and by the Free University of Belgium (which will become in 1842 the Free University of Brussels) then, in 1836 by that of the Polytechnic Faculty of Mons.
With the decree of 1838 which creates the "Special Schools of Civil Engineering" at the universities of Ghent and Liege the studies of civil engineer are now well organized in our country.
Note also that in 1836 when the creation of Special School of Civil Engineering Ghent there is a course (or section) "Civil Architecture" whose content will be specified by a Ministerial Order. Another Ministerial Decree will see the rank of "engineer-architect" show up in 1843.

Note that it is at the same time (in 1835 exactly) that is founded in Belgium, the Royal Commission of Monuments responsible for the maintenance and restoration of public monuments.

When architects begin to structure themselves

If the function and name of architect have existed for a long time, it will only be later that the profession will begin to organize itself.
It began in Great Britain with the creation, in 1791, of the "Architects' Club", then in 1806 with the "London Architectural Society" and finally, in 1834, with the "Royal Institute of British Architects" (RIBA ), this prestigious and still active English association.

In France, it is in 1840 that the Central Society of Architects (SCA) is founded to counterbalance the Academy and since 1865, one will see the multiplication of the associations of architects and even appear, in 1872, the first syndicate French architects: the National Society of Architects of France.

The New World does not remain inactive since 1857 the American Institute of Architects (AIA) will be founded in New York. One of its founders, Richard Morris Hunt, after studying at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, had created in 1850 a workshop in his New York office which is the first architecture school in the United States.

At home, we must wait until 1848 to see the creation of the Antwerp Society of Architects, which will become the KMBA (Koninklijke Maatschappij van Bouwmeesters van Antwerpen) and to see the publication of the "Journal de l'architecture et des arts relatifs à la construction" (which seems to be the first Belgian architectural magazine) which publishes the following year claims relating to the profession.
It should be noted that a year earlier, in 1847, the Association des Ingénieurs de Liège (AILg) was founded, the oldest group of engineers still active today.

In 1872, the Central Architecture Society of Belgium (SCAB) was born (in the form of a Mutual Aid Society whose role was to ensure dignity and ensure the professional defense of architect) as well as the Royal Union of Architects of East Flanders (URAFO) which will later become the Koninklijke Vereniging der Bouwmeesters van Oost-Vlaanderen (KVBOV).

From then on the creation of associations will follow regularly with for example the still active Association of Architects of Liège (ARALg) in 1891 or, in 1898, the Association of Architects of Brussels (ARAB) which will disappear, as for she, after the Second World War.

It should be noted that the first international association of architects was created in 1864: the International Committee of Architects, which in 1867 became the International Permanent Committee of Architects (CPIA), which will still function for 75 years before to blend in with the International Union of Architects.

The training of architects is also structured

In 1840 a first diploma of architect made his appearance at the Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels. Little by little, the program of his courses will expand: mathematics, descriptive geometry, etc.

In France, there was an attempt in 1843 to reform the National School of Fine Arts (ENSBA). This reform, inspired by Viollet-le-Duc, aims to allow representatives of the most modern currents of the profession to enter, to reassess the place of technical knowledge and to introduce an education on the Middle Ages. The protests of the teachers in place however lead this initiative to failure.

Twenty years later, we can see that in one of our schools of architecture technical courses are made mandatory, sanctioned by examinations and distributed between the different years of study where they are deepened.
During this same year, 1863 (where the first standard specifications for public works appear), Ghent also witnessed the creation of Saint-Luc schools by Baron Béthune, in reaction to the "antichristian principles of the academies" and in favour of the renaissance of crafts, like in the Middle Ages. At the same time, the Guilde de Saint-Thomas et de Saint-Luc, a professional association of architects, has been created in Maastricht and will be for many years an important vehicle for the development of neo-Gothic architecture. Other Saint-Luc schools will follow, at a steady pace: Tournai and Lille in 1877, Liège in 1880, Molenbeek in 1882, Schaerbeek in 1888, Antwerp in 1894, Saint-Gilles in 1904, Mons in 1908, Namur in 1913.

With the proliferation of schools, there is obviously a problem of harmonization of programs and diplomas and in 1868, a major congress of the teaching of the arts of drawing manifests the desire to create an architect's degree.
In 1883, the SCAB introduced a project of protection of the title of architect with "the objective of instituting a diploma of architect, to make it obligatory, and, as a consequence to create a school of architecture…" while a request concerning the revision of the teaching of architecture is presented to the Chambers.
Ten years later, in 1893, the same association will present another request for the revision of the programs of the academies and schools of drawing.

Finally, if in France the diploma of architecture will be made official by decree in 1874, we’ll have wait until 1896 to see the first diploma of architect in Belgium which is delivered by the Academy of Brussels.

Feminization is also (timidly) in progress since in 1889 the Brussels Academy opened its section "Fine Arts" to women, who could previously attend only the section "Applied Arts." It is a year later, in 1890, a first woman will finally graduate in architecture but it will not be in Belgium: it is the Finn Signe Hornborg (at home we will have to wait until 1930 to see the first woman to receive his diploma of architect) .

Professional action is amplified with the entry into the twentieth century

But there is obviously not only the diploma that interests architects and their associations. They must also work to defend their rights.
In 1886 they happily welcome the Copyright and Neighboring Rights Act and the Berne Convention which explicitly states that architectural works are protected by copyright.
The first table of fees seems to date from the same year but it was not until the year 1895 to see appear in France, the Code of Professional Duties (‘ Code des Devoirs Professionnels’) or "Code Guadet" which is the first code of ethics for architects.

At the level of international action it should be noted that the year 1895 also sees the organization in Brussels of the IVth International Congress of Architects, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the SCAB. This congress brings together 337 architects, including 153 Belgians and addresses topics such as the diploma, the restoration of monuments, teaching and the institution of mutual defence funds.

It is the same association that will organize in 1904 the first "Congress of Belgian Architects" (it is interesting to note that this type of meeting will then very regularly organized in the various cities of our country until the Second World War) and instructed his administrative office to take the necessary steps to organize a federation of Architectural Societies of our country.
And it is finally a year later that the Fédération des sociétés d'Architectes de Belgique (FAB) will be virtually created on the occasion of the 2nd Congress of Belgian Architects which is held in Liege while the SCAB publishes the "Code des Droits et des Obligations et Barème des honoraires de l'architecte…" (inspired by the Code Guadet), a code that will be subsequently adopted by the FAB in 1907.

The founding of the FAB doesn’t slow down the creation of new associations however, since in 1905 the Society of Center Architects (SAC) was born in Hainaut, in 1910 the Koninklijke Bouwmeesterskring van West-Vlaanderen (KBKW), in 1911 the Association Royale des Architectes de Charleroi (ARAC) and in 1912 the Société Royale des Architectes de Verviers et Environs (SRAVE) who will also join the ranks of the new federation.

The question of the official recognition of the profession

At the beginning of the 20th century, the profession of architect began to be officially recognized in many European countries. Thus, as early as 1913 in Austria, architects and civil engineers are officially recognized by a decree while laws regulate the profession of architect in Italy and establish a professional register based on a state examination.

The First World War will obviously put a brake on these concerns, although the forced inactivity of architects will be used to lead the reflection on these issues that can be relaunched at the end of the conflict.

In this way we see that in 1923 the profession of architect in Hungary is regulated, that in 1928 a law will protect the title of engineer-architect in Poland and that a year later a decree will arrange that only the architects graduates will now be able to work in Spain. In 1930, the architectural profession was also regulated in Greece, then in 1931 in Great Britain (registered architects only) and in 1932 in Romania.

In France, a law that protects the title of architect will be passed in 1924, but it will not be applied for lack of agreement of the entire profession on its definition.
The same year, at home, the project of protection of the title of architect of the SCAB (launched in 1883) is taken again: two deputies deposit a bill in the House creating a category of qualified architects.
In 1926, the rapporteur of the Commission de la Chambre tabled his report on this bill: it aims to generalize the diploma for all those who would follow the courses of an institution with a similar education to that of the Royal Academy of Brussels. This project is unfortunately not put on the agenda of the House.

The year 1927 (which is the year of the launch of the Van De Ven Prize, organized until 1968) sees the creation of the new art school of La Cambre by Van de Velde. Construction, resistance, technology, hygiene and building regulations are considered prerequisites: we only come here to learn architecture. Through this creation, each of the three major political currents in our country now have their own architectural education network.
The architects Verbruggen, Pompe and Hoeben, however, consider that for an architect's degree to be taken seriously, it is necessary to organize and unify the teaching of architecture: they are therefore drafting a plan for the organization of this teaching. This project is opposed by the Association Générale des étudiants architectes de l'Académie des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles (with Victor Horta in the lead) and the Royal Commission on Monuments and Sites.