VIII. Reform of the Order and disorder
A short history of belgian architects and their professional organizations
Part VIII .
Order and disorder: intervention of Minister Laruelle
At the beginning of 2004 and after years of vacancy of this function, the new director who had been finally engaged by the National Council of the Order is thanked; the Flemish advisers take the opportunity to refuse to engage another and affirm their willingness to split the Order on a community basis. On March 5th, an extraordinary management meeting will invite each of the language sections to formulate their proposals in relation to the management plan and to position themselves in relation to the missions that could be delegated to them.
Reflections on the future of our structures come out of the scope of the Order since at the same time La Cambre presents "Who is afraid of architecture?" a white paper on contemporary architecture in Belgium, produced on the occasion of its 75th anniversary. This document, written by a group that does not include representatives of the professional bodies, contains 13 recommendations: 12 of them are petitions of general principles, while the 10th recommends reviewing the representativeness and functions of the Order of Architects and to consider abolishing or limiting the monopoly.
The climate of discussion will get tougher on April 22 when during a cultural event organized in Ghent by the Council of the Order of the Province of East Flanders, the Conference of Presidents of the Flemish Provinces and Flemish delegates to the National Council announces that it decided, unilaterally but unanimously, to split the Order of Architects into two distinct orders, one Dutch-speaking, the other French-speaking. It decided in the wake of the creation of NeRoA (Nederlandstalige Raden van de Orde van Architecten), a de facto association with its seat at the same address as the Flemish Brabant Council. The next day, this declaration is deposited with the National Council.
In July, the UPA-BUA and the SCAB will take a position on this split intention in a press release. They denounce the way to proceed, ask to think about the reform of the Order in serenity and propose a restructuring on a regional basis, closer to the practical necessities of dialogue with the authorities. This statement, relayed by FAB, will be sent by e-mail in three languages to more than 6,000 architects.
Following these positions, the Minister of the Middle Classes, Sabine Laruelle, invites the beginning of the 2004 school year the whole of the National Council as well as the Presidents and Vice-Presidents of the Provincial Councils to a meeting of consultation and their rendez-vous for a new meeting, where she awaits concrete proposals. At the end of December the Order will unfortunately not yet have a common position to propose to the Minister who will complain two months later, in the columns of the professional press of the few answers she obtained from the CNOA on the reform but also on issues of importance to the profession (such as responsibility).
It should also be noted that, during the same period, the Vlaams Belang (formerly Vlaams Blok) introduced a proposal for the division of the Order, which puts the Flemish representatives in an embarrassing position and forces them to dissociate themselves from this approach.
The French-speaking waking up
The associative world does not remain inactive, however: in December, the association "Actions Communes des associations d'architectes de Belgique", which brings together a series of professional associations, organized a day at Les Moulins de Beez dedicated to the fee scales and also other topical professional issues. This very successful day of participation will be followed by another one in February 2005 and will be the starting point for a reflection activity which will focus first on the reform of the Order and will be a factor in renewal in the dialogue between professional associations.
On 23 August 2005, the "Common Actions" will present proposals for the reform of the Order and will be at the origin of the creation (on the initiative of the Luxembourg Provincial Council) of the "Groupe de Bouge" which will work for several months to establish the position of French-speaking architects in relation to the reform.
On July 1, 2005, during the traditional session of constitution of the new office of the National Council of the Order, the Flemish representatives practice the policy of the empty chair in order to affirm their will to modify the structures. The constitution of the office is therefore postponed until September when the CNOA meets for the second time in the absence of the Flemish delegates and is a temporary office under the chairmanship of a French-speaking member (when she was supposed to return, as usual, to a Flemish).
It will be only in November, when the CNOA will have voted the principle of the division of the Order, that the Flemings will reinstate it and will constitute a new Bureau, under the presidency of Jos Leyssens (also President of the NAV) who will present in the press as "the youngest and the last president of the National Council".
On September 29th, the Flemish-speaking set up the de facto (and thus unofficial) association "Vlaamse Raad van de Orde van Architecten feitelijke vereniging" which succeeds the NeRoA (Nederlandstalige raden van de Orde van Architecten).
On the francophone side, a first plenary meeting brings together representatives of the five provincial councils and the main professional associations in October to develop a common position among francophone architects on the reform of the Order. This group, which is the counterpart of NeROA and represents the entire profession on the French-speaking side, quickly organizes thematic working groups and takes the name of "Concertation of French-speaking and German-speaking Architects". His work will unfortunately be hampered by the systematic obstruction of some provincial delegates to the National Council who decided to go it alone.
At the end of October, the cabinet of the Minister Laruelle proposes a text of revision of the law of 63 likely to be voted within the framework of a program law of end of legislature. This text, however, does not take into account the work done by each of the two linguistic wings, nor the reflections carried out by the joint group gathered in his cabinet for a month.
On December 1, the CNOA submits its reform proposal to the Minister. This text is however accompanied by amendments of the Vlaamse Raad f. v., of the French-speaking wing and the "Barons" and, in the days that follow, the Minister receives a whole series of remarks as well as a new version emanating from the Vlaamse Raad. As before, Francophones advocate for a regional organization and the maintenance of an effective federal body while the Flemings want a community split overshadowed only by a very symbolic body. The Minister can only note the lack of coherence of positions.
Some great steps forward
In the midst of these difficult negotiations, however, the profession knows a festive moment with the feast of the centenary of FAB held on October 27, 2005 in the evening of the award ceremony of the Belgian Architecture, in Flagey.
This anniversary, however, is not the most serene since the same month sees the protocol between the CNOA and the FAB on the "foreign affairs" of Belgian architects denounced unilaterally by the CNOA, under the pressure of NeRoA and NAV which successively submitted their application to the CAE.
In order to block the remaining representative positions (each country can be represented by up to 5 representative associations), Francophone associations also decide to submit their application. Faced with this embarrassing precedent that may have repercussions in other member countries (with Corsican or Basque architects for example), the CAE decides to reintroduce the condition of "national" character of the member associations.
A series of more constructive news will happily bring some optimism to the profession.
First of all, by its decree of 27 January 2006, the French Community adopts new rules on cumulation: the teacher who exercises a salaried or independent function outside the teaching is henceforth considered as exercising his function in the teaching (and the famous Bondt Commission is therefore abolished). This provision, claimed for years, allows professionals to teach in good conditions again.
Another old demand of the architects is also met with the law of February 15, 2006 (carried by the Minister Laruelle) relating to the exercise of the profession of architect within the framework of a legal person. This law allows architects to limit their liability by the possibility of listing companies on the Register. It also makes liability insurance compulsory (it was already ethically imposed since 1985) and provides for financial control of the Order by the Ministry as well as the appointment of two "appointed by the King" civil servants, which are complementary (which brings back the composition of the National Council to 20 members).
In May, as part of the implementation of the reform, and in order to fill a certain gap, the CNOA decided to hire two Secretaries General. If the choice of the Dutch-speaking secretary is quickly made that of his counterpart unfortunately causes new turmoil within the French-speaking wing (because of the eternal "lone rangers").
It will therefore be necessary to wait until January 2007 for a French-speaking general secretary to take up his duties within the CNOA. Unfortunately, she will only have three months in office due to her isolation from the CNOA administration and pressure and will have to be replaced by another candidate.
In terms of professional protection of the architect, it is still necessary to note the Law of April 25, 2007 on various provisions which, in its articles 72 and following, establishes the non-transferability of the private home of persons exercising an independent profession.
Note also, at the end of 2006, at the level of the synergies of association, the association of the UPA-BUA and AABW with the edition of the magazine "Architrave" published by the SRAVE of Verviers.
Restructuring the associative world
On 18 January 2007, the General States of French-speaking architects are organized by the "French-speaking and German-speaking Architects Council" or CFgOA (succeeding the consultation body set up two years earlier) at the Moulins de Beez, with support Antoine (RW) and Dupuis (RBC). They bring together a hundred or so agents of the Order Councils and French-speaking professional associations and review the state of the reform and the positions of architects in the south of the country.
By becoming involved in the various reflections on the reform of the order, the associative world also looks at its necessary own reform. A reorganization is indeed essential to be able to face new regional and community issues that go beyond the local level of existing associations. On March 7, in fact, the French-speaking professional associations gathered in Wavre as part of the Actions Communes des Architectes, decided to reorganize the French-speaking wing of the associative world by creating two regional structures: the Association des Architectes Wallons (which will become the UWA : Union des Architectes de Wallonie) and the Brussels Association of Architects (which will later become AriB: Architects in Brussels).
Like the new Flemish BVA, these two new bodies bring together the associations concerned, as well as individual members to represent the architects vis-à-vis their political and administrative supervisory authorities.
A central central service organization is also organized, in particular to offer advertisers an alternative to the "Service aux Architectes Wallons" of the Flemish NAV set up to exploit the market insufficiently supported by the French-speaking associations. . A "territoriality" agreement will finally be concluded between the Actions Communes and the NAV.
Parallel to these federations of energies (and the difficulties encountered by some small associations) a new association is born with the official creation of the G30. This group, which brings together the bosses of the most important architectural firms in Belgium, and which has been operating informally for several months, deals with issues specific to this type of structure (public procurement, bogus self-employment, contract, fee scale and employee insurance, etc.).
Note also in the spring of 2008, on the occasion of the reception of the trainees of the Council of Brabant FR (renamed "Conseil de Bruxelles-Capitale et du Brabant Wallon" to the great discontent of the Dutch-speaking councils), the launching of the association of " Jeunes Architectes de Belgique" (JAB) which militates it, for the defense of the young collaborators of offices of architecture (and which will therefore be brought later to negotiate with the G30).
During the same period, the creation of the Technical Committee "Architects" within the BBRI, initiated by the FAB, is a way of reviving the late "Comité FAB-CSTC". to make suggestions to BBRI regarding the architects' expectations of research and publications by this organization.
It should also be remembered that the end of 2008 sees the launch, long hoped for, of the magazine "Arch-Index" in French version which unfortunately comes out at the beginning of the period of economic crisis.
Finally, on March 23rd, 2009, by a decree modifying CWATUP, the Minister André Antoine initiates a platform of consultation between the architects and the public authorities through a Maison de l'Urbanisme (located in Namur) for which the UWA (which was officially founded in 2008) is accredited.