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UPA-BUA Union Professionnelle d'Architectes
Beroepsunie Van Architecten

VII. New professional approaches

A short history of belgian architects and their professional organizations

Part VII .


Quality and new professional approaches

If the turn of the century is marked by the invasion of computer and telematic tools, it is also by the development of the concept of quality as a notion standardized and certified based on ISO 9000 standards.
In the Anglo-Saxon countries, large architectural offices had already begun to be certified for some time: beyond the contribution of this certification to their brand image, they had been able to see the positive impact of the quality approach to the efficiency and performance of their office. From the turn of the century some large Belgian architectural offices will also take the plunge.

But ISO certification is nevertheless heavy in a world of construction mainly made up of SMEs, which is why SECO and the CSTC will launch the COQUAL label, a system of qualification less heavy and more adapted to the sector: in 2003, the The first COQUAL qualifications are awarded to building SMEs, including several architectural firms from the Verviers region.

Expert architects also take the train of QA: in 2000 the National College of Experts-Architects (CNEAB) organizes a training course in Quality Assurance for its members and takes the opportunity to write a specific Manual Quality Manual , which will allow some of them to be certified as early as 2003.

In 2002 the CNOA published on its website its own Manual of Quality Manual and a year later the CAE did the same (it can be recalled that the UIA had already adopted in 1999, at its congress of Beijing, the "Proposed UIA Agreement on Recommended International Standards of Professionalism in Architectural Practice ").

But, as the introduction of the CAE Quality Guide rightly points out, it is important to always distinguish between the quality of the service (handled by QA), the quality of the construction carried out and the quality of the architecture. (design).
The latter is fortunately not quite forgotten since on February 12, 2001 a resolution of the Council of the European Union on the architectural quality in the urban and rural environment was passed. This resolution, which is largely the result of the work of reflection of the "European Forum of Architectural Policies", encourages, among others, member states to intensify their efforts for a better knowledge and promotion of architecture and urban design.

This is stirring again on the side of the Order

For many years, the Order of Architects had been showing signs of old age. Several surveys carried out at the end of the 1980s had indeed revealed numerous problems of management and organization: disparities in the treatment of ethical issues by region, lack of continuity in general policy, lack of readability and capacity to intervention, problems related to personnel management. But, as we saw earlier, the solutions proposed by the organizational advisers consulted had never been implemented.

In 1998, however, the architects discovered, with a certain surprise, a project of reform of the order developed, without any consultation with the profession, by the Minister of the Middle Classes, Karel Pinxten and the President of the Order, Bernard Vauterin. This project will provoke an upsurge of associations and provincial councils which will have the effect of burying a project which was sticking to the new structures of the State (since it provided for regional bodies alongside the two chambers of ethics) but which was very heavy.

The abandonment of this reform project and the retirement of the Administrative Director of the Order (who will not be directly replaced) will not prevent the Order from taking some practical initiatives: in 1999, the National Council 'assistant the services of a Dutch-French interpreter for its monthly meetings and hires a computer scientist who will create a website, fully functional from the beginning of 2000.
The same year Architext, the Order's information sheet, is taken over by the CIAUD, which signs a new contract with the CNOA for the A+ magazin, while the open house operation is relaunched and reorganized in a new way. more professional under the name of "Ma Maison, Mon Architecte".

In 1999 again, the Provincial Council of the Brabant Brabant updates and reissues the "Guide of the Young Architect" following the inaction of the National Council which had to take care of it.
Two years later, in 2001, a 66-hour cycle of further training for trainees was organized in seven middle class centers across the country, at the initiative of the Order and its new President Pierre Sauveur. This initiative, subsidized by the CNOA, will benefit from the training voucher system in the Walloon Region as from the second year and will continue to be regularly organized on the French-speaking side, while it will be interrupted on the Flemish side.

Reflections on the indispensable reform of the structures

If the reform proposal proposed by President Vauterin has been vigorously rejected, it will at least have had the merit of launching the debate on the Order but also on all the professional structures. Significant sign of the disaffection of architects in relation to their Order, the ordinal elections of 2001, there are fewer candidates than positions to be filled in several provinces.

In 2002, during the numerous debates on various FAB reform projects, it is clear that the Flemish associations want to give less importance to the national level, unlike French speakers. And as every time we want to reform the associative world, some stand out the idea of the creation of a union, even as the last existing union (the SNAB) is disappearing, for lack of members. Some associations, tired of waiting for this ever-postponed reform, decide to leave the FAB: this is the case of the AABW and the association of architects of Limburg which joins the ranks of the NAV.
A bill to reform the FAB statutes will be proposed by President Dan Craet but will unfortunately not be finalized.

The energies spent in these discussions fortunately do not prevent some concrete initiatives to see the light of day: in 2002 the federated associations can finally disseminate the new edition of " Clauses Administratives du Cahier des Charges pour travaux privés” FAB-CC (Confederation Construction): the The laborious revision of this document will have lasted a fortnight.

In 2003, the management of Batibouw wishes to give a more commercial character to the Belgian Architecture Awards, which have become, over the years, an appreciated and expected event and, in the face of the FAB's refusal, makes the decision to create its own "Belgian Building Awards".
The FAB decides to give more glory to its own Awards and organizes the award ceremony at Flagey, which is a success.

Women in power

The year 2003 is for the Order a pivotal year or a tipping point that will come to light on the occasion of its 40th anniversary. Many debates will be organized both on the French-speaking side (meetings bringing together representatives of the 4 "pillars" of the profession: Order, professional associations, teaching and media) and on the Dutch-speaking side (a thematic conference in each of the 5 provinces).
Also that year, the CNOA hires a new director, after several years of vacancy of this function. This appointment, made by the Bureau alone, creates some turbulence: an information meeting is organized in late June, following a request for clarification from some French-speaking boards. The idea, previously envisaged, of creating the functions of General Secretaries, architects (a Francophone and a Flemish) is provisionally abandoned.

The problems of the Order do not come only from within: in November, the European Commission threatens the CNOA action due to the resumption of the scale (indicative) on the site of the Order, which constitutes, in its view, an obstacle to free competition. In June 2004, it will go so far as to condemn the CNOA to pay a fine of 100,000 Euros for continuing to disseminate this document.

But 2003 is also the year of the women (architects): a female colleague, Dominique Body, accedes for the first time to the presidency of the CNOA. This election will be agitated because several French-speaking provincial councils oppose the accession to the presidency of a member of the Forum (responsible for the suppression of the modulated subscription and the financial problems which ensued) at the head of the CNOA. It will finally be the Flemish voices that will ensure the award of his post to D. Body.
At the same time the presidency of the CAE is entrusted to the Luxembourg Marie-Hélène Lucas, while at the FAB it passes into the hands of Marie-Madeleine Mennens.
Let's note that one year later, in 2004, Zaha Hadid will be awarded the Pritzker Prize: she is the first woman to be crowned by this prestigious title.

Note also that 2003 is also the year in which the association Architects Without Borders Belgium proposes the "Charter of Hasselt" in order to bring together the different ASF groups in Europe and that the year 2004 sees the publication of the results of the survey. on professional liability and insurance of architects in 15 European countries, conducted by the Centre d'Etudes d'Assurances (CEA), at the request of the CNOA. This study shows that the Belgian architect is the one with the heaviest responsibility for professional liability.
Finally, let's note that on February 19, 2004, the second day organized by "Common Actions" on Louvain-la-Neuve will be held on various professional topics (including the issue of the fee scale).