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UPA-BUA Union Professionnelle d'Architectes
Beroepsunie Van Architecten

II. Wars and the post-war period

A short history of belgian architects and their professional organizations

Part II .


Architects equip themselves with professional tools

From the end of the nineteenth century, the Société Française d’Architecture organizes in its Paris premises a museum of materials and a system of cards written by architects on new materials that arrive on the market. This kind of practical initiative will later be taken over and developed by the professional associations, which often combine the functions of trade unions and mutual societies and also deal with the information and "continuing education" of their affiliates.

At home, a professionalization of these services was realized in 1928 with the creation of the OREX, on the initiative of the SCAB, in order to "protect the architects against the risks inherent in the materials used". This body is responsible for conducting control tests and experimental research on materials and construction processes. Its head office is located in the premises of the SCAB, while its offices and workshops are installed at the ULB.
Four years later, the Centre d'Information en Matière Architecturale (CIMA) is born. It is sponsored by FAB and works closely with OREX.
In the field of professional tools, the creation in 1934 of the SECO Control Office (under the name of "Bureau Securitas") founded in the form of a cooperative by representatives of architects, consulting engineers and contractors.

It must be said that after the end of the First World War many new materials and new techniques are emerging or developed such as, for example, reinforced concrete. It must also be remembered that the calculation of concrete was not immediately integrated into the training of future civil engineers, which leads to the emergence of a generation of self-taught concrete calculating architects who put themselves at the service of companies.
These new techniques, combined with the disappearance of many tradesmen (dead on the field of honor) and with the development of the modernist current, will lead to profound changes in the art of building.
This is how, in 1931, the "Boerentoren", the first building in Belgium, was built in Antwerp.

In the field of social protection, our French neighbors created in 1931 the Mutual of the Provincial Association of French Architects, which became Mutuelle des Architectes Français (MAF) in 1936 by opening up to all architects members of an association.

New associations are still being created

The year 1932 saw the founding of the Professional Union of Architects graduated from the Saint-Luc Schools of Belgium (UPA). This association created at the initiative of Willy Van Hove wanted to be first an association of old. This initiative having been rejected by the Brothers, who saw it as a "Bolshevik" drift, naturally took the form of a genuine professional association independent of education.
However, she will have to impose herself as such with her peers, thanks to her actions at the service of the profession.
Thus, one of its first initiatives is the founding of the Bourse du Bâtiment in Brussels, which will be the origin, in 1937, of the UPA-BUA Price List (which is still published today).

True associations of ancients will however still be created since in 1936 the Société des Architectes diplômés de l'Académie royale des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles in Brussels (SADBr) is founded. Other groups of interest for architects were created, such as the Association Belge des Experts (ABEX) in 1933, while new professional associations appeared as, in 1938, the Association des Architectes de l'Arrondissement de Mons (AAMs). ) and the ephemeral "Conférence des jeunes architectes de Bruxelles" (which will disappear in 1943).

The FAB, which incorporates most of these new associations, publishes on July 12, 1934 a booklet of the "Droits et devoirs professionnels de l'architecte et barème minimum des honoraires" which is filed with the registries of the courts and public administrations, Chambers of Trade and Chambers of Arbitration of the Building. This text is approved by 13 of the 17 companies that make up the FAB.

In 1933, we must also mention the visionary but forgotten approach of the foundation of the "Centre de Documentation du Bâtiment" at the initiative of the Association Royale des Architectes de Bruxelles (ARAB), the Chambre Syndicale des Architectes de Belgique (CSAB), the Société Belge des Urbanistes et Architectes Modernistes (SBUAM) and the UPA-BUA. This center, housed in a large mansion on Rue de la Loi (which was the seat of these four associations), included meeting rooms, a conference room, a "material library", a reproduction service for drawings and on the ground floor, a permanent exhibition of building materials and products.

Unfortunately this ambitious initiative seems to have been abandoned by the architects during the war. After the liberation, following an initiative of the architect L. De Vestel and the Principal Engineer of Public Works, the Federation of Belgian Industrialists (FIB), FAB and the National Confederation of Construction (CNC) will found in 1948, under the patronage of the Ministry of Public Works, the "Centre Belge de Documentation de la Construction" (CEDOC) which will set up its premises rue de l'Etuve. This organization (which will last until the end of the 60s) will carry out a systematic inventory of products and standards and will propose to develop a national specifications to replace "the 187 existing specifications" (sic). Eleven years later, in 1959, Georges de Vestel will launch, the International Exhibition of Construction (which will be called Batibouw in 1973).

As an extension of the Building Documentation Center the publication of the first edition of the "Classeur Documentaire du Bâtiment" in 1943 was also an initiative of Willy Van Hove. This workbook, which prefigures the CoBo Systems documentation, will have two new editions in 1951 and 1959.

1936 and 1939: The Belgian architects finally have a unique diploma and get their monopoly

In 1929 the important law on the graduation of academic degrees (university) is promulgated which enrolls engineers-architects among the nine recognized legal degrees of civil engineering. The same year, the University of Liège also began organizing this type of training.

At the XIVth National Congress of Architects organized by the FAB in Liège in June 1930 the idea of the legal diploma made its way and a report is read on the reorganization of education. A year later, the FAB submitted a new project of organization of the teaching of Architecture to the Ministry.

It should be pointed out that in France, between 1933 and 1938, a series of bills or proposed legislation on the protection of the profession of architect (Brandon, Vaillant-Couturier, Berlioz, Zay) are also presented but fail by lack of agreement amongst the profession.

In 1933, the Minister Yernaux is interested in the question of the diploma of architect and appoints a commission by ministerial decree but one notes that a year later, after its replacement by the minister Bovesse, this project is on the back-burner and that the Commission no longer meets. In December the SBUAM decided to study the issue of the protection of the profession (the SBUAM was the Belgian Society of Urbanists and Modernist Architects founded around the same time, in the CIAM movement. in 1971 by integrating the SCAB).

In January 1935, during a session of "The Entente", the UPA-BUA proposes to appoint a commission for the study of the protection of the title while the SBUAM puts at the disposal of the Entente, the work that she has already realized. This new commission is working hard and submits its report to the FAB in April: it contains the explanatory memorandum, the draft law, the Internal Regulations and the Revised Code of Honor (such speed allows dreaming when you compare it to the slowness of the current reform!). It is actually a project to create an Order of Architects organizing the profession and protecting the title.

These numerous actions will not have been useless since on May 5 1936 the Royal Decree is voted which organizes the teaching of the architecture and which resumes almost entirely the proposals of FAB. It provides for a single diploma of architect subordinate to the completion of lower middle studies and whose duration of training is 5 years (+2 years for those who have not completed their higher average studies). Note as well that it is also in 1936 that the profession of surveyor is now made accessible through the passage by the Central Examination Commission which delivers the diploma of Géomètre-Expert Immobilier: many architects of this generation will also often follow this sector, in addition to their architectural degree.

But the fight for recognition of the profession is not over since in 1937, the Minister of Public Education Hoste introduced the first bill that will lead to the law of 1939.
It was in fact finally in February 1939 that the law on the protection of the title and exercise of the profession of architect was passed: educational institutions are approved for the issue of the title and a commission of approval is set up to register active practitioners (it will finish its work in 1946).

Note, a year earlier, the law on the protection of the title of Engineer (the degree of civil engineer is awarded to graduates of the four Belgian universities and the Polytechnic Faculty of Mons) and the initiative of the SCAB which obtains of the Prime Minister "the principle of putting to a competition between architects the design of new administrative buildings which the government is planning to build".

War and the dynamics of the post-war period

The years of war that follow will obviously slow down this momentum but will again allow the architects to think about the future after the war.
The professional action resumed in 1949 with the decree of the Regent who created the "Ecoles Supérieures d'Architecture" (replacing "sections of architecture"): studies will now be in 5 years after the humanities.

But the new dynamism is also manifest in the associative world where we are witnessing the creation, in 1951, of the Union des Architectes de l'Etat et des Services Publics (the UAESP, which will become the UAF - Union des Architectes Fonctionnaires - in 1988 but will unfortunately disappear at the end of the nineties), in 1953, the Nationaal Architectenverbond (NAV) and, in 1956, the Association of Architectes de la Province du Luxembourg (AAPL).
In addition, an official decision of August 13, 1954 conferred on the FAB, then composed of 17 member unions, the title of "Royal Federation".

1954 is a good year because the "Maison des Architectes" is established as non-profit organization. This building, built at 21 rue Ernest Allard at the initiative of Willy Van Hove, founder of the UPA-BUA and president of the FAB, will be bequeathed to these two associations in June 1956.

In the field of architectural education, the same year saw the creation of the Provinciale Hogeschool voor Kunst en Architectuur, while two years earlier, the State network took over the Academy of Antwerp. which became the NHIBS.

With regard to services for the profession, the FAB will publish in 1959 a third edition of the "Code and Barème" which is adopted almost everywhere in Belgium but which, at that time, is not yet compulsory.

A year later, it is the creation of the Commission Technique de la Construction which coordinates everything concerning the prescriptions as well as the certification (this commission will work until 1989 and will be resettled in 1998) and especially of the  Centre Scientifique et Technique de la Construction (CSTC, or BBRI Belgian Building Research Institute), under the impetus of the National Confederation of Construction and thanks to the means released by the Decree-Law "de Groote" (in France, the corresponding body - the CSTB - had been created as early as 1947).

In 1961 the UNPLIB (Union Nationale des Professions Libérales et Intellectuelles de Belgique) is created in which representatives of architects will sit from now on and the following year the insurance company architects AR-CO sees daylight in the form of a cooperative company. This creation is the result of the initiative of several professional organizations.