Which of your own completed projects are you most proud of and why?
Despite its small scale, project BRUS has an advantage. Here we renovated our own (terrace) house on the outskirts of Ghent with a minimal surface area (115m2) and a limited budget. We have carried out a large part of the work ourselves with the help of family and friends. Taking care of both the design and the execution proved hugely rewarding – and at times frustrating. Considering the small footprint and our family with two children, this renovation does not show grand gestures, but takes pleasure in the details; a narrow alu/timber frame curtain wall as a new rear wall that brings wonderful sun and a view of a cherry tree in the garden (by the neighbors), the round plywood arches that give the zones between them an identity, a round kitchen island as a focal point, the red gypsum granulate floor (something we have not yet been able to convince any customer of) to break with the classic parquet and soon the 4-part regenerated doors from Rotor, which will have a new look as a transparent partition between the dining and living area. This will be one of those projects that will be tweaked endlessly.
Which project in progress or in preparation do you have high expectations for?
The ‘Vijfhoek’ project was preceded by an intense design, consultation and standstill period of several years. We put our first line on paper in 2016. It concerns a densification project in the village center of Liedekerke, where a single-family house is replaced by an arrangement of 7 housing units around a shared garden and courtyard. The challenging spatial context (large height difference in the terrain, a triangular plot and limited facade width to the street) resulted in a stepped U-shaped building, provided with the necessary level divisions and where the facade is ‘cut up’ so that the building is scaled to the terraced house, with which the rest of the street is built. By placing the car park (semi) underground, the garden and courtyard in the middle of the apartments form a common entry point and meeting place for the residents. As an architect, we supervise the entire construction process from A to Z, where each item is carried out in a shared contract. The basement is a fact, the structural superstructure is underway: all the puzzle pieces are starting to fall into place.
Which project by another Belgian architect is a bull’s eye for you?
Our daily bike ride to and from work is brightened up by a lot of beautiful Ghent buildings: the Kartasan house at Vens Vanbelle in Gentbrugge, the new parking building in Ledeberg (Havana, LUST and Bollinger-Grohmann), the apartments in Keizerspark in NU Architectuuratelier, XDGA’s Melopee School,…
Which foreign architects are a great source of inspiration for you?
Hararchitectes, Bruther, Muoto, Monadnock, …
What do you think are the most successful recent construction projects abroad?
Two weeks ago, on our (non-architectural) tour of Marseille, at the urging of my fellow travelers, we visited Le Corbusier’s l’Unité d’habitation, and I do not regret it. Not recent, but as far as we’re concerned, still hyper current.
Which young architect in Flanders is currently making a big impression on you?
We share a workspace in Ghent with many young architects who each develop interesting ideas in their own (sensible) way: Marge architecten, Architectuuratelier Vos, Atelier Huyghe, Cristina Robina, Kollektif landscape, Marie Vercraeye, THIRD. Our daily moments of knowledge exchange cannot but leave an impression.
What do you find so fascinating about your job as an architect? Do you want to encourage your children to follow in your footsteps?
Participating in shaping the living environment of many people (no matter how big or small) is in itself a fantastic responsibility. In addition to the ‘big goal’, we find the versatility and the combination of the technical and creative aspects of an architect’s work very enriching.
Above all, our children must choose their own path. Fingers crossed that their first thought (driving a bus or fire engine) reaches an architect.
Which meeting was decisive for your further architectural development?
Meeting each other has had a big impact. In addition, the path that I (Ruben) walk with Compagnie-O still has a great influence on the day-to-day.
Can you still recognize yourself in the ambitious young student you once were? Do dream and reality match closely?
We wouldn’t describe ourselves as ambitious students – after all, we think our dreams were a bit detached from an architectural career. The ambition has especially grown since then and is still growing every day with each new challenge we take on.
What job would you be doing now if you weren’t an architect? Ruben: journalist / Emily: pilot
Where did you receive your architectural education? Both: UGent – Engineering (Architecture)
Who did you do an internship with? Ruben: Bollinger-Grohmann (Paris) and Compagnie-O (Ghent). Emily: Architect (Brisbane) Julien De Smedt (Brussels) and Stéphane Beel (Ghent).
What was the title of your thesis? Ruben: E-Cube, a self-build home for the Solar Decathlon (Washington). Emily: Moosanagar, a slum in Hyderabad, India.
Favorite architecture book: Reuben: The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand). Emily: Rabot 4-358 (Simon Allemeersch)
Favorite other book: Reuben: Primitive Days (William Finnegan). Emily: The Lovers (Brecht Evens)
Favorite movie: Emily: Apollo 13. Ruben: /
Favorite TV show: Ruben: The joy of painting with Bob Ross. Emily: Seconds from Disaster (National Geographic).
Favorite music: Ruben: The 80s. Emily: Kurt Vile and so on.
Do you have a lot of free time and how do you prefer to spend it? Ruben: too little, preferably already asleep. Emily: too little, preferably super active.
Favorite city in Belgium: Ruben: Ghent and Aalst (3 days a year). Emily: Gent.
Favorite European city: Reuben: Paris. Emily: Copenhagen
In which country would you most like to have been born and raised? Reuben: Belgium. Emily: Australia.
Active or passive sportsperson? Which sport? Ruben: active: far too little, passive: The Last Dance (Michael Jordan). Emily: Active: Trying to load Strava – Passive: Watching friends’ Strava.
Favorite architecture site? Ruben and Emily: Well-crafted websites for architectural firms.
Preferred other website? VRT NWS