This is the life of a man formerly known as an architect, dedicated to architectural practice for more than three decades, out of which he has extracted a PhD (2012) (1)—a still ongoing and compelling reflection on what it means being an architect.
What does it mean being an architect?
Then, in 2019, a rupture occurs, a shocking moment of doubt. The man formerly known as an architect refused, said “no”. Silently swimming in the dark undercurrent seemed more attractive than remaining on the fancy stage. He wanted to liberate the young architect in him, and with him every young architect he encounters, from the censorship that pervades architectural practice and discourse currently. It is a censorship that humiliates the poetic power of architecture into mere energy calculations, suffocating regulations, and the totalitarianism of bureaucracy. All this, combined with commercial conformism, is a toxic coctail that squeezes ‘the real’ in architecture into utilitarian ‘realism’. Consequently, architecture is being pushed into cultural stagnation. Hence, this architect wants to resist.
Like the Paper Architects in the Soviet Union (2) tried to resist Soviet bureaucracy and censorship by making drawings of their darkest imaginations, the man formerly known as an architect decided to go into exile in his subversive drawings. These drawings are his daily exercises in the mastery of Technè as the indispensable condition for the emergence of Poetics in architecture. These drawings, very often sections of fragments and (full scale) architectural details, anatomize topographies, material behaviours, dimensions, stone sections, and profiles, and hence explore the poetic power of architectural expressions through the architect’s full mastery of Technè. These drawings, ultimately, mutate from architectural representation into the locus of ontological architectural presence. Making these drawings constitutes an act of empowerment towards architectural freedom of expression that teams up with an act of resistance against the mentioned cultural stagnation. This is also what Studio Anatomy aspires to do (www.studio-anatomy.org).
What does it mean being an architect? Perhaps, this is what the lecture is about.
P.S.: reformulating a practice in such ways may not exclude this man’s return to the practice he abandoned in 2019. Homesickness?
1.Van Den Berghe, J. (2012). Theatre of Operations, or: Construction Site as Architectural Design. Melbounre: RMIT University.
2. Here, I especially refer to Alexander Brodsky and Ilya Utkin. Together with other paper architects, like Michael Berov, Mikhail Filippov, Nadia Bronzova, Yuri Avvakumov, they became a group of over fifty members in the Soviet Union in the 1980’s.
Jo Van Den Berghe graduated from Sint-Lucas School of Architecture (1984). Intern and collaborator of Juliaan Lampens Architect (1984-2019). Practice based PhD (RMIT University Melbourne (2012). An architect with a critical reflective practice since 1986. Teaching experimental architectural design at KU Leuven Faculty of Architecture: ADO Studio Anatomy and ADO The Architectural Detail. He founded the Research Group The Drawing and the Space (together with Thierry Lagrange), where he researches the tension field between Techné and Poiesis in making architecture (the poetics of making). In this research, he develops innovative versions of the architectural drawing as the indispensable locus between Techné and Poiesis. He has been the Program director of KU Leuven Faculty of Architecture (2017-2022), directing the curriculum reforms of respectively the bachelor and master of architecture. He is a visiting professor at Politecnico di Milano, EPFL Lausanne, Queen’s University Belfast, RMIT University Barcelona and VirginiaTech University.