In keeping with tradition, to start off each new Yearbook the VAi puts out a call. Last year we wrote to 6,326 Flemish architects asking them to submit completed buildings, designs and ideas, for the 2010 edition. The members of the editorial staff studied the writings, drawings and photos in 357 entries. With great interest and an open mind they sought out architecture that formed an invitation to critical reflection. Buildings that reveal the sort of confrontations architecture enters into. Constructions outstanding for the way their designers communicate their view of architecture. A long process of analysis and discussion resulted in a selection of 38 singular projects in a specific context.
The challenges dealt with in The specific and the singular are to be found at the level of the architectural design and its role in its own context. The book is intended to indicate what knowledge is being built up in specific designs and how this knowledge is able to contribute to architectural activity in Flanders. The projects published, either one by one or in some cases grouped into typological families, are subjected to thorough analysis in the form of a personal architectural critique by members of the editorial staff or by guest writers from abroad.
One of the main themes in this regard is the need for typological research for public and semi-public buildings. In what way can architecture express any meaning in society when it houses police stations, crematoria and cultural centres? What answers do architects formulate to such delicate questions as reception homes for youngsters and people who are not entirely fit for society, but who literally and physically have to be given a place in a house? How do they tackle the complex programmes found in the health and care sectors, which are subject to their own logic and systems of finance?
Architects again and again turn out to be able to generate special know-how. The way they take up these challenges – intelligently, sensitively and successfully – not only demonstrates substantial professional expertise, but also shows that they do not shy away from complex assignments. They know what architecture is capable of and where form and aesthetics are needed or not.