Ensembles. Architecture and Craft

Press release
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THE CRAFTSMAN AND THE ARCHITECT: AS THICK AS THIEFS. After the widely appreciated Flemish presentation on ‘craftsmanship’ in the Belgian pavilion at the Architecture Biennale in Venice, the craftsman is now also making his appearance at deSingel. In Ensembles. Architecture and Craft, the Flanders Architecture Institute (VAi) and the Antwerp Provincial Architectural Archives (APA) offer a view of what craft and craftsmanship have meant to architects both past and present.‘Craftsmanship’, ‘ craft’ and ‘manual production’ have become buzzwords in the creative sector and far beyond. Handwork, repair shops, all manner of DIY books: they are all the rage again. At the same time, learning a craft is more than ever seen as a credible response to the problem of unskilled youngsters in towns and cities. Ensembles looks at how architects find these craftsmen to be partners in creating good architecture.

“The production of prefab concrete is a perfect example of how craftsmanship is not always visible in contemporary architecture, but is still a fundamental aspect of the building process.”

- Bart Tritsmans, together with Christoph Grafe

Craftsmanship of all times Breathtaking photos of the steel construction for the ‘Boerentoren’ skyscraper in Antwerp can be seen alongside academic drawings by architecture students showing wooden constructions, roof structures, carpentry and joinery, brick bonds and wrought iron, a drawing of the façade of the ‘Liberaal Volkshuis’ in Antwerp on which a group of architects and applied artists worked together intensively, a skillfully designed wrought iron capital from Horta’s lamented ‘Volkshuis’ in Brussels, pictures of neighbourhood cooperation on ‘the square’ in the beguinage at Mechelen in 1975, etc. “Ensembles proves that craftsmanship and traditional expertise in a new co-working context can lead to innovation in architecture today” says Tritsmans. As an example the curator points out two life-sized objects in the exhibition: “An iron capital from the ‘Brussels Volkshuis’ from 1896-1899 and an impressive steel node from the ‘Waalse Krook’ in Ghent, a project by architects Coussée and Goris. Together these two objects show how craftsmanship will always be connected to architecture.”