Career Case Study #11: Juliaan Lampens

In the 2011 book, Angelique Campens compiled a list of projects and buildings that Lampens acknowledged, suggesting the existence of others either forgotten or unmemorable. I’ve combined her list with one from a 2019 Bachelor’s thesis by Andrea Ligao of the Politecnico di Milano and that includes some of the more obscure projects and competition entries. [Nice work, Andrea!] In my list below, any building we saw in the last post and that’s part of the narrative will be bolded, and any competitions or unbuilt work will be italicized. The buildings we saw last week are only a small part of a larger picture. I’ve repeated this list, with images, at the end of the post. You’ll see from the unbuilt work and the unpublished projects that there’s recurring themes and preoccupations for the writers of future monographs to theorize about. As it stands, the list is still an approximation but the early years now look more realistic although there was a lean period 1951–1958. The 1958 Expo surely inspired Lampens because soon after is a flurry of international competitions as well as his own house from 1960 that began his career proper. 1974 marked the beginning of Lampens’ teaching career but the practice was busier than ever. I’d expect Lampens to have employed at least one senior architect and one junior architect from the mid-1960s, and possibly one or two more for the period 1975–1980.

JULIAAN LAMPENS: List of Projects

JULIAAN LAMPENS: LIST OF PROJECTS
1945Small Family house, Nazareth, East Flanders
1948Two-Family House Knudde, Nazareth, East Flanders
1950[establishment of practice]
Single-family house
Single-family house
Three terraced houses
1951Van Hove Clothing Shop, Nazareth, East Flanders
1953Doctor’s House Vermaerke, Nazareth, East Flanders
1957National Housing Institute: The Modern Ardennes House (special mention for originality)
1958House Cooreman, De Pinte
1959Thirty-nine small land-ownership houses, De Pinte
1960The European Home Competition, Preliminary design for an apartment building (third place)
National Architecture Competition: Sports Centre at the Watersportbaan, Ghent
Lampens House, Van Hove, Nazareth, East Flanders
1961International architecture competition: Euratom European Institute for Transuranium Elements, Karlsruhe
1962House Delbeke, Kortrijk
1964International architecture competition: Madrid Opera House, Madrid
1966The Chapel of Our Blessed Lady of Kerselare, Edelare, Belgium
House Dhondt, Sax, Oosterzele
1967Vandenhaute-Kiebooms House, Zingem, Belgium
House Vierstraete, Gand
1968House Diane Laampens, Gavere, Belgium
House Claus, Maarkedal
Sint-Kruis~Male Church, Bruges
House Claus, Etikove, Maarkedal
1969House De Vos-Smesman, Eke (Nazareth)
House Pijpaert with butcher’s, Nazareth
Residenze estive Sint-André, Koksijde (Apartments, Oostduunkerke)
1970Eke Public Library, Eke, Belgium
House Jozef Vandenhaute, Zingem
1971Country House Claus, Maarkedal
1972National architecture competition: University Institute Antwerpen (Wilrijk)
Reception area for tourism office, Blankenberge
1973House Derwael–Thienpont, Gavere, Belgium
House Jozef Claus (Zero) with Factory, Eke (Nazareth)
House Bauters, Maarkedal
Extension to House Vanhove–Volkaert, Eke (Nazareth)
1974Van Wassenhove House, Laethem-Saint-Martin (near Ghent), Belgium
1975House Libeert, Komen
National architecture competition: City Hall and Administrative Centre, Lokeren
1976House/Atelier Wallaert, Wannegem–Lede
House VandenHaute-Vereecken A, De Pinte
Studio and house for the painter Wallaert, Wannegem-Lede
1977International architecture competition: Pahlavi National Library Project, Tehran, Iran
1978House De Meyere–Dhondt, Merelbeke
House Merckaert, Geraardsdbergen
Loft Lauwers (a.k.a. House in Lauwers Hangar), Nazareth  
National Boerenkrijg Museum (a collaboration with Jo Van Den Berghe)
1981Architecture competition: Sint-Lucas Secondary Art School, Ghent
1983International Architecture competition: Social housing for Stawion, Amsterdam
1988House De La Ruelle–Van Moffaert, Sint-Martens-Latem, Belgium
1990House Wouter/Dierick Lampens. Semmerzake
1992House Dieter/Hartmann Lampens, Semmerzake
1997International architecture competition: Art & Music Centre,, Javäskylä (Finaland)
2002House Velghe–Verlinden, Deinze, Belguim
2002House Vandenhaute-Van Eylen, Leuven (collaboration with Luc De Vos)
2012House Russo, Uccle (collaboration with Luc De Vos)
Monument E17, Nazareth (collaboration with Luc De Vos)

Lampens produced 57 projects, 11 of which were competitions. Of the 46 commissions, 41 were built and 5 not. Of those 41, Lampens looks like being remembered by only nine of them. Although four of that nine are heritage protected, any nine projects could be used to illustrate any number of narratives, if narratives are what we want, and if narratives are what an architect’s career is supposed to condense into.

Lampens was born near Ghent, went to school in Ghent, had a practice near Ghent, and died near Ghent.

Born in 1926, he was 24 when he started his practice in 1950. This part of architects’ careers is often undocumented. Starting a practice is always made to sound so simple. I’d always believed that as soon as there’s one job underway and the promise of a next then it’s as good a time as any to start a practice. Because Lampens never moved far from Ghent, I’d expect he had a supportive family that gave him the confidence if not also some early clients and financial security but this wasn’t the case. He was studying art at the Higher Institute for Art and Vocational Training of the Sint-Lucas School in Ghent and a teacher there suggested to Lampens’ father that his son enrol in the architectural course “because he was such a good draftsman”. It must have been a good call because Lampens completed his first house before he finished his studies.

Lampens’ first buildings were traditional in style …

Biographies usually have a sentence that goes like this. “Having been profoundly influenced by his experience of the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, Lampens subsequently made a radical change of course and built his own house in 1960, which represented a major turning point in his career.” Or this: “Although he started his career with more traditional architecture, Lampens’ visit to Expo 58 in Brussels changed his architectural style to brutalism and concrete, much like the styles of Le Corbusier and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.” We’re then told that his first house for himself in 1960 was very unlike anything he did prior to 1958.

… but in 1958 when Lampens visited the Brussels Expo he decided he was some sort of Modernist.

It’s never made clear what the catalyst for this change might have been for the Brussels Expo was as eclectic as any exposition before or after. Despite its dramatic cantilevery, something of Mies van Der Rohe might have been visible in the West German Pavilion by Egon Eiermann & Sep Ruf but, as a style, Le Corbusier was absent, instead being represented by Iannis Xenakis who was working in his office at the time. Lampens was to do nothing like The Philips Pavilion and nor, for that matter was LC. Lampens was to resist imitating the decorative CMU of of Edward Durrell Stone’s US Pavilion. He was to shun the shell concrete forms that architects of the time were exploring, notably Eero Saarinen in the US and Roy Grounds in Australia.

Although Lampens was to be later associated with concrete, he had no time for the audacious structural expressionism that concrete enabled. The Mexican Pavilion by architects Rafael Mijares Alcerreca and Pedro Ramirez Vasquez was particularly accomplished but we see nothing of it in Lampens’ later work and if he saw something in Kunio Maekawa’s Japan Pavilion, he never mentioned it. Finally, we have never again seen the likes The Atomium, from Lampens or anyone else.

It’s not necessary for Lampens to have been influenced by anything or anyone specific as the enthusiasm and optimism of the Expo might have been all he needed, although it’s true that optimism was largely conveyed by non-traditional architecture. Lampens is quoted as saying “Every healthy Belgian visited the world’s fair. It was due in part to the world expo of modern architectural styles that such work became accepted and established in Belgium. The masses saw the possibilities of technology and started to believe in modern architecture and I felt that the climate was ready to build in a modern way in Belgium.” We do know that Lampens was impressed with the Norwegian Pavilion designed by Sverre Fehn and saw its potential for structures that were light and open.

The 1958 Norwegian Pavilion by Sverre Fehn is not to be confused with the 1962 Nordic Pavilion Fehn designed for Venice.

“He constantly tried to reach an absolute reconciliation in the antagonism between Le Corbusier’s whimsy and Mies van der Rohe’s control.”

from the online magazine Maniera!

I only include this quote to show how the names of Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe can be used to say pretty much anything about anyone, and drag them back towards these two as if they are some points of reference universally, instead of just in our minds. I don’t understand why this has to be, or what problem this solves. If Lampens encountered Fehr’s Norwegian Pavilion and something suddenly made sense to him, then that’s where we need to start. Everything else is a discussion about Fehr for some other time.

Lampens developed his own personal style of raw concrete and monolithic buildings resembling fortresses or bunkers that blend in their context and natural landscape.

The nearby coastlines of Belgium, France and The Netherlands are littered with WWII bunkers that are indeed massive, monolithic, mute, protective and made of concrete, as fortifications tend to be. These next three photographs by Jonathan Andrew, of some in France, convey the architectonic dimension of these structures.

“For Lampens, these constructions on the Atlantic coast constituted the most beautiful examples of brutalism. Though not directly associated with brutalism, the architecture of Juliaan Lampens stands as a significant variant of this style: materially in his use of raw concrete, and formally in his deployment of the bunker typology. For some time he experimented with raw concrete in order to develop his style of bunker-like exteriors combined with open vistas and sculptural motifs.”

from the online magazine Maniera!

However, if fortresses and bunkers blend in with their landscape it is because at the time they were camouflaged to do so. In the 2013 interview Laampens said he had seen these structures disguised as houses during the war, and then revealed later when the bricks were reused post-war. Let’s keep it real. Bunkers as we know them do not have a harmonious connection between the interior and exterior and they do not blend in with the landscape. It’s said Lampens liked the materiality of concrete, but … is this a word he would have used? Does materiality mean anything more than a material’s physical qualities (but mostly looks) and what’s possible with it? The 2002 House Velghe–Verlinden is not world’s apart from his own house from 1960 and three other of his most well-known houses in-between.

Laampens was a Brutalist.

Lampens’ own house of 1960 has no audacity of shape on the outside, and there’s little sense of concrete on the inside. In the first image below, the wall with the bookshelves is concrete on the outside and lined with timber on this inside. This is not something we associate with Brutalism, or even Modernism where the conceit of having inside and outside space “flow into one another” means no such distinction is drawn. It is true that Lampens’ houses have large areas of glazing but it is rare to have an intermediate space such as a terrace or covered porch. I expect this is because In Belgium (as in the UK) the weather is such that many a garden is best appreciated from indoors.

But Lampens did produce some buildings that resonate with the popular understanding of Brutalism as aggressive and audacious shape-making and it’s these buildings that, more often than not, have concrete as a strong presence inside and fit the current understanding of Brutalism.

Some people won’t see the wood for the concrete but much of Lampens’ work makes strong use of timber and would not be called Brutalist by any definition. Loft Lauwens (circa 1974) is a good example. It’s only publication is in a Japanese magazine, perhaps because the Japanese are less preoccupied with what’s concrete and what’s not. Loft Lauwens is a house built inside an industrial shed has an exposed truss amongst much timber. The effect is neither industrial nor organic. Lampens was quoted as saying he prefers timber for the parts of buildings people touch but the stair handrail is metal. [I’d also said you won’t see any paint in a Lampens building but here you do on both walls and handrail.]

The 1966 House Diane Lampens is never mentioned as representative of Lampens’ sensitivity to all materials. The problem with calling Lampens a Brutalist is that we can’t accept his use of brick, or timber, or anything other than concrete. This is a problem with us, our insistence on classifications, and only acknowledging content that fits them.

The public library in Eke has a diminished internet presence. It appears disused – I’m speculating because of a universal access problem. The building is also not well represented on the internet, and this is almost certainly due to the adjacent building destroying what seems to have been an important design consideration. The concrete block walls no doubt reduced costs in this small library and explains why off-form concrete is used only for the architectural event of the street frontage. This necessitated a change of materials at the corner and the design sketch shows Laampens was aware of this. The concrete block was to have its revenge. I don’t know what the truth is. The adjacent land may have been municipal property when the library was commissioned.

The 1966 chapel is another building that’s an important part of the Lampens as Brutalist narrative but we’ll probably see more historic photographs being used to maintain this narrative. Recent photos show the concrete roof should have had its materiality sustained by a bit more material. Bunkers still litter coastlines for a reason. The yellow supports are thoughtfully designed and positioned as if they’re going to be around for quite some time. That roof’s not going to be made good without major pain.

He experimented with raw concrete in order to develop his style of bunker-like exteriors combined with open vistas and sculptural motifs.

This quote I’ve just included so I can talk more about bunkers, enclosure and what goes on inside. The first image below is Lampens’ entry for a 1957 competition The Modern Ardennes House. It has an shell envelope enclosing some living functions independent of it. Lampen’s 1960 house has a concrete on steel frame envelope enclosing some living functions clustered around a central core. The layout of the 1966 chapel is not that different.

This idea of separating enclosure and habitation was in the air at the time, reappearing again in 1965 by François Dallegret’s 1965 illustrations for Reyner Banham’s article “A Home is Not a House“.

The 1967 Vandenhaute-Kiebooms House has an enclosure of concrete on glass and the most independent of layouts yet. The 1968 House Diane Lampens is tucked into a corner of a spiral wall with only one side open and the internal walls separating the living functions do not confuse this separation.

An earlier iteration of 1974 Van Wassenhove House is configured the same way with the emphasis on a protecting wall enclosing a conceptually independent interior configuration. It’s basically what any house is – an enclosure that can be lived in. The layout of the Van Wassenhove House as-built is no different. However, the orientation is. The unbuilt plan has the bedroom and study facing south and the living/dining-kitchen facing but most likely with borrowed light from the south. The built layout has the living area facing east while the bedroom and bathroom are lit from the west, with borrowed light to the living area. This is made possible of course, by the bedroom and bathroom walls not being full height.

This is something we’ve seen coming in the 1967 Vandenhaute-Kiebooms House.


These next photographs show the east-west change in the daylighting. I suspect those 45° walls in the roof section above function as reflectors as well as spatial transitions.

These next photographs of the least photographed corners of this house show just how much of that daylight there is.

Those next images taken at dusk also show the house as a lived-in thing. You won’t see many staged photographs of Lampens’ houses upon their completion and this is because of his disinterest in having photographs of them published.

When he died, the owner Albert Wassenhove, gifted his house to the University of Ghent who in turn gave it on a long-term loan to the museum Dhondt-Dhaenens in Deurle. The house was renovated in 2015 thanks to the support of Philippe and Miene Gillion, and it is now available for residencies and short stays. These are two photographs are from the museum website.

https://www.museumdd.be/en/kortverblijf/

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JULIAAN LAMPENS: LIST OF PROJECTS
1945Small Family house, Nazareth, East FlandersThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-17-at-4.56.43-PM.png
1948Two-Family House Knudde, Nazareth, East Flanders
1950Single-family houseThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-17-at-4.54.28-PM.png
Single-family houseThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-17-at-4.58.43-PM.png
Three terraced housesThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-17-at-4.56.53-PM.png
1951Van Hove Clothing Shop, Nazareth, East Flanders
1953Doctor’s House Vermaerke, Nazareth, East Flanders
1957National Housing Institute: The Modern Ardennes House (special mention for originality)
1958House Cooreman, De Pinte
1959Thirty-nine small land-ownership houses, De Pinte
1960The European Home Competition, Preliminary design for an apartment building (third place)This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-17-at-4.22.56-PM.png
National Architecture Competition: Sports Centre at the Watersportbaan, Ghent This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-17-at-4.23.49-PM.png
Lampens House, Van Hove, Nazareth, East Flanders
1961International architecture competition: Euratom European Institute for Transuranium Elements, Karlsruhe
1962House Delbeke, KortrijkThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-6.50.37-PM.png
1964International architecture competition: Madrid Opera House, MadridThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-11.00.49-AM.png
1966The Chapel of Our Blessed Lady of Kerselare, Edelare, Belgium
House Dhondt, Sax, OosterzeleThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-6.52.17-PM.png
1967Vandenhaute-Kiebooms House, Zingem, Belgium
House Vierstraete, Gand This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-6.53.31-PM.png
1968House Diane Laampens, Gavere, Belgium
House Claus, MaarkedalThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-6.56.05-PM.png
Sint-Kruis~Male Church, Bruges This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-6.56.13-PM.png
House Claus, Etikove, MaarkedalThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-8.39.48-AM-1024x682.png
1969House De Vos-Smesman, Eke (Nazareth)This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-19-at-9.01.58-AM-828x1024.png
House Pijpaert with butcher’s, Nazareth
Residenze estive Sint-André, KoksijdeThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-19-at-9.13.35-AM-684x1024.png
Apartments, Oostduinkerke
1970Eke Public Library, Eke, Belgium
House Jozef Vandenhaute, ZingemThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-7.05.52-PM.png
1971Country House Claus, MaarkedalThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-7.06.20-PM.png
1972National architecture competition: University Institute Antwerpen (Wilrijk)This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-11.00.24-AM.png
Reception area for tourism office, BlankenbergeThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-11.00.34-AM.png
1973House Derwael–Thienpont, Gavere, BelgiumThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-1-1024x696.jpeg
House Jozef Claus (Zero) with Factory, Eke (Nazareth)This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-7.10.06-PM.png
House Bauters, MaarkedalThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-7.10.14-PM.png
Extension to Houser Vanhove–Volkaert, Eke (Nazareth)
1974Van Wassenhove House, Laethem-Saint-Martin (near Ghent), Belgium
1975House Libeert, KomenThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-6.25.48-PM.png
National architecture competition: City Hall and Administrative Centre, LokerenThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-19-at-8.38.48-AM.png
1976House/Atelier Wallaert, Wannegem–Lede This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-19-at-8.39.04-AM.png
House VandenHaute-Vereecken A, De PinteThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-19-at-8.39.13-AM.png
Studio and house for the painter Wallaert, Wannegem-LedeThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-6.25.58-PM.png
1977International architecture competition: Pahlavi National Library Project, Tehran, IranThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-6.26.06-PM.png
1978House De Meyere–Dhondt, Merelbeke This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-19-at-8.39.27-AM.png
1978House Merckaert, GeraardsdbergenThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-6.26.20-PM.png
Loft Lauwers (a.k.a. House in Lauwers Hangar), Nazareth  
National Boerenkrijg Museum (a collaboration with Jo Van Den Berghe) This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-19-at-9.04.34-AM-828x1024.png
1981Architecture competition: Sint-Lucas Secondary Art School, Ghent
1983International Architecture competition: Social housing for Stawion, Amsterdam This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-6.26.49-PM.png
1988House De La Ruelle–Van Moffaert, Sint-Martens-Latem, BelgiumThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-19-at-9.00.43-AM-768x1024.png
1990House Wouter/Dierick Lampens. SemmerzakeThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-19-at-9.06.27-AM.png
1992House Dieter/Hartmann Lampens, SemmerzakeThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-6.46.41-PM.png
1997International architecture competition: Art & Music Centre,, Javäskylä (Finaland) This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-19-at-8.50.51-AM.png
2002House VelgheVerlinden Deinze, Belguim
2002House Vandenhaute-Van Eylen, Leuven (collaboration with Luc De Vos)This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-19-at-8.52.04-AM.png
2012House Russo, Uccle (collaboration with Luc De Vos)This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-19-at-8.52.14-AM.png
Monument E17, Nazareth (collaboration with Luc De Vos)This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-19-at-8.52.25-AM.png

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