Structural
Contingencies

A House for Crafts |
Hotel d'Ursel, Belgium, Meesterproef

2016 – 2017

The graduation course aimed to counterbalance notions of standardisation and efficiency with ideas of ‘craftsmanship’ and ‘making’. Can architecture still be ‘crafted’? The brief prescribed a new ‘house for crafts’, a vocational training centre for wood and concrete processing on the First Dutch Cement Industry (ENCI) site near Maastricht. The ENCI wants to transform its factory terrain into an urban development for companies and laboratories related to the concrete industry.

The redevelopment of the industrial site required a powerful first gesture, a building full of character, that could guide the rest of the development. To arrive at the essence of ‘a house’, the studio took the lost Hôtel d’Ursel in Brussels as a starting point. Until its demolition in 1960, the Hotel was inhabited by the d’Ursel family as a stately residential palace. As the architect Martiny sighed when the house was documented in 1943: ‘One wonders in vain what the use is of a plan for this large house: slanted corners, false doors, numerous alcoves, all kinds of niches and incomprehensible levels, which make the work of the curious impossible’. The students worked with experimental graphic and spatial techniques to capture the architectural and material essence of this lost house.

These ideas were then transported to the ENCI site. This rather incongruent step became the productive starting point for the design of the craft school. Just as the Hôtel d’Ursel had been a pioneering building for Brussels, the proposals had to create an anchor point. The qualities and peculiarities of the d’Ursel house were used by the students as a polemical alternative to the generic character of many contemporary school buildings. Finally, at the level of the interior architectural themes of the school surfaced in unexpected ways. As with the Hôtel, urban planning, architecture and interior merged into a single task.

 

Teaching team:

Eireen Schreurs en Mechthild Stuhlmacher
Caroline Voet

Workshop : Anne Dessing

 

Students:

Chiel Patijn
Eliza de Meijer
Romy van Vooren
Alexander Deryckere
Margo Vanallemeersch
Zoë Lybeert
Alexia Deltour
Deborah Dumarey
Gaétan Plaieser
Lowie Devos
Anton Witdouck
Stephanie Vinckier
Michiel Bogaert