Jozef Wouters


During the season 2012/2013 the Flemish theatre house KVS is supporting 12 individual artists to work in the city of Brussels. In three different neighbourhoods each artist is asked to install his or her practice and let it be influenced by the dynamics of the specific neighbourhood and the city of Brussels as a whole. The first area is called Cité Modèle: a modernist mini city in the north of Brussels, designed in the 60’s by Renaat Braem. Hidden between the touristy atomium and the national sports stadium, this giant social housing complex harbours a diverse population of 2000 individuals. In this neighbourhood the artist and architecte à peux près Jozef Wouters works on his project Cité Maquette (all problems can never be solved).

Renaat Braem was an architect based in Antwerp. He was a student of Le Corbusier and strongly influenced by the socialist party. After some internationally admired buildings in Antwerp, he was chosen to be the Flemish representative in the group of architects who had to design the Cité Modèle. In this group Braem quickly managed to fulfil the central role. His design, based on a strong believe in top-down planning, foresaw several housing towers and community infrastructure placed in a big green park. He intended to provide modern comfort, parking space, nature and leisure to middle class tenants. Central in his design, Braem foresaw a spacious square (het hoogplein) that was inspired by the Arabian ‘souk’ and the Greek agora. Just like the old Greeks developed a space in their cities where politics, economics and culture could take place and be discussed, Braem wanted his square to be surrounded by a cultural centre, shops, a café and a restaurant for it to become a place where the common interests of all inhabitants could be lived and discussed. The Model city was intended to be ready in time for the Brussels world exhibition of 1958 and had to be visionary about the future modern life. Because of various delays, the initiators could only exhibit a model of the project to the world. After the expo, the budgets were cut back and thus the church, the school and library, as well as all facilities on the central square were not realised. Without these public utilities, the square functions today as a transitional space with too much wind and very little tools to encourage usage or occupation.


Fascinated by the difference between an architects aspiration and everyday reality, the artist Jozef Wouters wants to test the central square on its intended ‘agora-capability’. 60 years ago an architect decided to accommodate the world with 1600 m2 of space to use as an agora. Space, intended to host discussions and debate about common interests. The artistic project cité maquette wants use this square to generate discussion about the problem solving nature of architecture.

The first phase of the project consists of archiving problems. With a personalised letter and personal interviews, all inhabitants of the cité modèle and the neighbourhood organisations are asked to submit problems for the architects to work on. It is important to note that this call for problems will not focus explicitly on local problems only. All persons questioned are asked to provide us with private, local, regional and global problems. Along with this neighbourhood interrogation, experts on different fields, philosophers, books, newspapers and artists are consulted to provide us with a wide range of problems. Combining those different strategies, we will gather an archive with a multitude of files, each addressing a different specific problem: private, collective, local or global. This archive will be put central on the square in a self-constructed pavilion that will serve as meeting place and communication tool for the whole project.

Following this archiving, Jozef wants to invite a group of architects and artists to join him and work on the problems. Starting with a congress on September 22, during which the diverse problems are being presented, the KVS will facilitate architects and artists with everything needed to come up with possible answers to a diverse range of problems. The invited architects and artists, but also interested locals and volunteers can take on the function of architect by wearing a pullover with ARCHITECT written on it and by dealing with a certain problem. Each participant chooses his or her own strategy and topic. Local or global. Concrete or unsolvable. Complex or one sided. And although the use of models is obligated, each architect chooses for him or herself the function, form and scale of this model. Is it a way of communicating a possibility or to manifest a problem? Is the model a goal in itself or a study for an intended action? It could be interesting to see at what point the model has to be made in scale 1:1. The presence of architects central in an architectural utopia that is (no) problem and (no) solution at the same time could create an interesting tension. Is solving problems a problematic intention? Can problems be solved at all or can we only push them away? Does a higher fence or bulletproof glass solve anything? Can more daylight cure a depression? Does a wall solve fear? What can an architect design for unsolvable problems? By positioning a group of architects instead of an individual artist, Wouters consciously wants to take responsibility. Architects, unlike artists, have a clear task in society; they are expected to analyse situations and formulate propositions. We want architects to work on problems and shape our future.

During the project there will be organised moments of lectures, discussion and feedback by inhabitants or specialists. The needs of each participant will influence the choice of topics and way of communication. As the project advances, the only thing that visibly changes may be the pavilion and the actions on the central square. Together with engineer Menno Vandevelde, Jozef will shape the presence of the architects and their results. This sculpture will evolve from information panel and archive to a pavilion of models. At the end of November 2012, this exposition, together with a publication and a live presentation of the developed work, will be a big part of a festival organised by the KVS. This moment of attention could be the opportune moment for the project to communicate its archive of models and relics to a wider audience. An overview of problems and solutions in scale 1:1000 to 1:1.


One comment

  1. Pingback: Cite Maquette « Colin Matthes

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