Skip to content

UPA-BUA Union Professionnelle d'Architectes
Beroepsunie Van Architecten

IX. Architects at the university

A short history of belgian architects and their professional organizations

Part IX.


Architecture finally at the University

The integration of the teaching of architecture in the University was, as we have seen, a very old demand of the world of architects and was the subject, during the last thirty years, many aborted projects of reform education (communitarized in the meantime).
Although in the Flemish Community Architecture was integrated into the Hautes Ecoles, on the Francophone side it had remained isolated in relation to the three main categories of higher education: the University, the Hautes Ecoles and the Grandes Ecoles d'Art.
It is therefore with great pleasure that, in the spring of 2007, the French-speaking Higher Institutes of Architecture discovered a draft decree by Minister Marie-Dominique Simonet on the integration of a school of Mons interpreters in the University of Mons-Hainaut, also contains a project of reform of the teaching of architecture in its "various".
This reform project offers ISAs either to integrate into a university, to co-graduate with a university or to maintain their status quo. La Cambre and Horta are considering joining the ULB from the outset (which nevertheless poses administrative problems due to the fact that these three entities depend on different networks), Lambert Lombard wishes to do the same with the ULg while Saint-Luc Brussels expresses its wish to collaborate with UCL but stay in Brussels (which is contrary to territoriality agreements between universities). The situation of ISA Mons and those of the Institutes Saint-Luc of Liège and Tournai are also more difficult.

Because of the choice of solutions proposed, this important decree risked creating asymmetries between schools. Numerous negotiations have therefore been initiated both at school level and at the political level, and many solutions have been envisaged (some even imagining integrating the three Brussels ISAs - including ISA Saint-Luc - into the ULB).
In early June 2008, the Higher Council of Architecture (also long awaited) is finally officially established. Due to the disappearance of the ISA, however, it will be a short existence since it will disappear at the end of 2009 but it has served useful meanwhile inter-school discussion platform on the conditions of the reform.
Following all these discussions, it will ultimately be decided that all ISAs will join a university and that all teachers will retain their status and benefits (within a sunset framework).

It is on this basis that the decree organizing the transfer of the teaching of architecture to the university will be voted by the Parliament of the French Community on April 28, 2009. The following months will be dedicated to the drafting of conventions. necessary to make this integration effective on January 1, 2010, or January 1, 2011 at the latest (due dates later replaced by the unique date of September 1, 2010), and thus form a new faculty of architecture and urbanism.

On June 30, 2010, the ISAs lived. ISA Saint-Luc of Liège (which was part of the ISA Saint-Luc of Wallonia), joined Lambert Lombard (part of the ISA Intercommunal), the ULg. Saint-Luc de Tournai (which was also part of ISA Saint-Luc of Wallonia) and Saint-Luc of Brussels joined UCL, but kept their presence in Tournai and Brussels, the engineers-architects (who joined the new faculty, while in other universities they will remain in the Faculty of Applied Sciences) remaining at Louvain-la-Neuve. La Cambre and Victor Horta integrate the ULB while ISAI Mons joins the University Mons-Hainaut (part of the same network as the ULB).
As we can see, this historic decree will have finally resulted in some inter-network mergers.

We are not yet out of the ordinal panade

If the question of education has finally succeeded and, as we have seen, if the associative world is restructured and begins to be better recognized by the political world (this is particularly the case of the Walloon Union Architects who occupies the House of Architecture and Urbanism put at its disposal by the Minister Antoine), we are still far from the account with regard to the reform of the Order.

In June 2007 a meeting was held to form a co-ordination group for the "foreign affairs of the Belgian architects". This initiative (prompted by FAB President Jan Ketelaer) aimed to get out of the litigation created by NAV's desire to be involved in Belgium's representation within the CAE.
The neutral group of experts consulted advocated the establishment of a unit composed of representatives of the Order and associations to replace the old protocol concluded between the Order and the FAB and criticized by the NAV.
The proposal to create an International Relations of the Belgian Architects (IRBA) group will unfortunately be blocked by the positions of the ones and the others then by that of the Government Commissioner (introduced within CNOA by the Minister on the occasion of the reform of the Order).

The Order must then consider elections because of forgetting, in the catch-all law (which contained the first elements of the reform of the Order), an article providing for the extension of mandates to the National Council, a situation complicated by the overlapping of mandates and the fact that some elected officials refuse the extension of their mandate.
Following these elections, which were held in a rush in January 2009 and which have a low number of applications and a low turnout, the new provincial councils are being set up and - notwithstanding the statements of Jos Leyssens, who had announced, three years earlier, he would be the last National President - a new Francophone President of the CNOA is appointed: this is Michel De Keiser.

It must be noted, however, that the new functioning of the CNOA, which is based on two wings, which are now more autonomous, will give rise to certain difficulties, particularly with regard to personnel management and the desire of Dutch-speakers to have even greater independence (motivated in particular by an almost unanimous vote of their elected representatives at a plenary assembly).
Minister Laruelle, meanwhile, will claim regularly but unsuccessfully the commissioning of the database of architects entitled to exercise, provided in the law. This commissioning is hampered by legal problems and by the disruption of the IT departments which suffers from the setting up, in parallel, of a site specific to the Flemish wing.

It is therefore not surprising that at the end of October 2009, the Minister's adviser summoned the President of the Order to reproach him for not having fulfilled his commitments and to urge him to make a joint proposal for the reform of the order at the risk of the Cabinet dealing with it itself. It will not be until the end of April 2010, that the National Council will finally be able to vote a series of agreements in principle of both wings on the reform, thanks to increased pressure from the Minister who refuses to endorse the budget and blocks the launch. the call for contributions (which will only be sent in June).

As for the «basic» architects, who are generally unaware of all these events and who also do not understand the meaning (and we understand them willingly), they continue to complain about the amount of contributions and the poor quality of the services received.
Basic services (at the provincial level, in particular) are fortunately ensured by a somewhat unmotivated staff, while the French-speaking wing, now convinced of the inevitability of the split, is reorganizing itself with energy in the direction of greater efficiency (in harmonizing, in particular, provincial practices) and even makes good initiatives. This is particularly the case in terms of internal and external communication, the reorganization of the internship and further training of trainees as well as in the important field of missions and contracts.

Some of these issues still continue to be debated at national level where agreements in principle are reached on the reform of the internship.
For the rest, the CNOA now settles for endorsing the decisions emanating from each wing as far as they are not national or international.
He also expects the outcome of the elections (political ones) to continue to discuss, with the new cabinet, the revision of the law on the organization of the Order.

As a conclusion

This history of the profession is obviously not over and we should see a series of important decisions in the coming months.
Of course, it does not pretend to have gone round the question and we can only hope that others will one day try to complete it. However partial it may be, it nevertheless makes it possible to release certain constants. It first reveals the enormous amount of energy and enthusiasm that our predecessors have displayed. It also reveals the great achievements but also the enormous waste of time and often recurring errors.

One of the constant failures of architects is their tendency to always want to reinvent everything by ignoring or erasing knowledge. This tendency, which is based on a frenzied individualism, leads to the regular recreation of new structures that are supposed to replace the old ones, considered outdated, but which probably have the default of having been imagined by others and in the village next door. This is what gives us this disparate blossoming of associations, more or less important, more or less active or moribund, that are born in enthusiasm, grow or vegetate and often disappear in abandonment and forgetfulness.

The existence of many associations firmly rooted in a specific environment (region or type of practice) is not inherently dangerous if it is based on a desire to federate energies, and mobilize on specific and limited objectives. This was the case in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century with the creation of the FAB, with the holding of major national conferences, with the establishment of the first international structures and with great fights for recognition of the profession, for the organization of education and for the creation of the Order.

As a result of this creation, the associations unfortunately lost their energy and tended to fall back on themselves or to focus on more local or particular problems, with too few overall perspectives. It should be noted that the problems facing architects were more numerous, diverse but also global and that their treatment required more professionalism, the latter being inaccessible to the associative world because of its fragmentation and its lack endemic means.

We understand that many architects engaged in professional action have naturally directed the Order to be able to benefit from these means and this professionalism. The Order, however, has neither the same function as the associations, nor the same role to play (although the excesses were not rare). It has itself experienced many problems of functioning even more, in recent years, by errors of a reform always in search of itself.
All this explains the disappointment felt by many new representatives.

Another problem often identified is the lack of relationships between the profession, education and cultural bodies. There are many reasons for this problem: the anti-cumulation rules that have long distanced practitioners from teaching, the complexification of the curriculum and the loss of the strictly professional nature of academic training.

It must be pointed out, however, that the difficulties encountered at national level have been partly filled by the influence and increasing action of the international bodies of the profession which, even if they appear far from the basic architect, are not less important in their long-term consequences. And in this regard, we must point out the active and important role of Belgian architects in setting up and running these bodies.

It can also be hoped that the recent changes in education and the associative world as well as those expected within the Order, constitute the basis of a new impetus of which we already see interesting beginnings.





Some sources

Architects generally don’t like archives and there are relatively few summary documents relating to the history of their profession, particularly with regard to Belgium. The information on which the present articles have been based has generally been gleaned from numerous punctual sources.

However, let's mention:

  • the important synthesis of former FAB President VG Martiny and in particular " La Société Centrale d’Architecture de Belgique depuis sa fondation (1872-1974)" published by the SCAB in 1974 as well as some articles published in the A+ News magazine,
  • Miscellanea Archivista VII "Les archives de l’architecture conservées par l’Etat, en Belgique" realized by A. Libois at the General Archives of the Kingdom (1974),
  • The Liber Historicum "FAB 100" (1905-2005) directed by J.-M. Fauconnier and P. Ketsman,
  • with regard to the history of architects in general (and with regard to the information given at the beginning of the present articles), the "Histoire de l’Architecte", a collective work realized under the direction of L. Callebat ( Flammarion, Paris 1998).