The Flanders phenomenon: The Guardian praises Flemish architecture

"Once derided as 'the ugliest country in the world', Belgium now has some of the best public architecture in the world," British newspaper The Guardian wrote on Thursday. ​ 

Flemish architecture has always been talked about, albeit in a less positive way. The Guardian is about to change that. In the article 'The Flanders phenomenon: how Belgian buildings went from joke to genius', the British newspaper shines its light on the most prestigious building projects in our country. 

"Once derided as ‘the ugliest country in the world’, Belgium now has some of the greatest public architecture on Earth, from sculptural water silos to bombastic port HQs. What happened?," The Guardian wondered.

Thanks to the 'Open Call of the Flemish Government Architect' procedure, which was launched in 2000, national and international architects and designers travelled to the region to design public projects. Twenty years later, this has resulted in 300 new public buildings.

"It is an astonishing output for a region of six million people, with elegant libraries and special education schools, as well as dramatic concert halls and bridges, in a place once derided as 'the ugliest country in the world'," The Guardian wrote. 

The article also refers to Celebrating Public Architecture, a publication highlighting 70 examples from the recent 'wonder years' of Flemish civic design. 

Flemish architecture has always been controversial in recent decades, albeit in a less positive way. For example, the American art historian G.E. Kidder Smith wrote the following in 1961: 

"Of all European countries, Belgium is the least excusable for not having contributed more to contemporary architecture," he wrote. "The mediocrity of its architecture can only be explained by the indifference of its officials, the inadequacy of its educational system and a weak materialism". 

Today, Flemish architecture is again in the spotlight in a positive way, thanks to The Guardian and the Flemish Government Architect, who since 1998 develops the Architectural Design Policy in Flanders. 


Illustration picture shows the new harbour house in Antwerp © Belga Photo Dirk Waem


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