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Jan Tanghe in discussion

With Sieg Vlaeminck, Werner Desimpelaere & Raf Desaeger
27.09 1991

Jan Tanghe replies on questions from Sieg Vlaeminck, Werner De Simpelaere and Raf De Saeger.


Jan Tanghe architect of the year.

Jan Tanghe was elected by the editorial board of the architectural journal Arch & Life as “Architect of the Year”. His predecessors Georges Vrankx (1983), Bruno Albert (1985), St. Luke Archive (1986), Leo Beek (1987), “Architecture of Neighbor” and “Une Maison, son Architect” (1988) and Jean Delhaye (1989).

His “rivals” were for 1990: engineer-architect Eric Van Rompay, project and country planner, specialist for information technology for the construction of Euro Disneyland in France (which was recently acquired by Walibi), architect and professor Caroline Mierop, director of the Fondation pour l ‘Architecture in Brussels; architect Jean Verscheure, chairman AR-CO (Cooperative Insurance Company for architects) and architect and teacher Marc Gosse, director of “Stage International AGCD ‘for professionals from developing countries.

The choice finally fell on Jan Tanghe (Ostend, 1929) as a reward for his remarkable work as an architect, urban planner, professor and “thinker”. Since 1966 he is Chairman of the Planning Group, a design group of urban planners, traffic experts, architects and engineers which is based in Bruges and Brussels. He teaches urban planning at the University of Mons, is the Royal Commission for Monuments and Honorary landscapes and international expert at the Council of Europe for urban and historic cities. During sheet of years he was also a board member of the magazine for architecture and urbanism A +.

On his record, he has to stand the structure of Bruges, various urban planning and traffic studies (in order for Brussels and Ostend), remarkable buildings such as the Parliament and the BAC headquarters in Brussels, the KIH Ostend, the Olympic pool in Ostend, vacation Newport and the restoration and extension of the Concert Noble in Brussels.

According to the editorial board of Arch & Life be his speeches and lectures attentively followed by a large audience of young people, and its moral authority and humanist vision generally respected. For Jan Tanghe is the main challenge of the 21st century in the search for a balance between economy and ecology. Here, the quality of the environment is essential for the mental and spiritual survival of human beings. Even though he voted rather pessimistic, he still believes in the philosophy of continuity of the city and of architecture.

Sufficient reason for Archipelago to invite Jan Tanghe for an extensive interview.
Sieg Vlaeminck, sociologist Werner Desimpelaere, architect, 25-year employee of Jan Tanghe in Group Planning and architect Raf Desaegher ensure a proper retort.

Between continuity and change
Looking for balances

My childhood memories are clearly more than city-bound building-related. Perhaps I’ve always been enchanted by the goddess of the city … bijaldien that exists. In 1935 I climbed along with my father, the Antwerp Boerentoren. What particularly impressed me then was not so much the tower itself, but the up-and-down elevator, and especially the people and the cars down there seemed so little.
Before the war my father was captain of one of the fastest ships in the world, a mail boat, with an interior that was designed by Henry Van de Velde. An enchanting ship with a modern interior. A wonderful world for children.
In 1940 we lived in London, a city with a metro i her belly where rapid diesel trains were swallowed up tens of thousands of passengers and spewed. Steam trains, ships, vaulted drives, world cities, foreign countries … it has fascinated me since childhood.

I had the choice between the city and the sea. I chose the city, and have lived long on the sea to Ostend … In a residential environment that in time, “organic” colonized “a alley in the city.”

After my studies at St-Lucas in Ghent, in 1953 I came up with three great patrons: Gaston Eysselinck, Paul Felix and Peter Callebout. Each from their own philosophical point of putting it up to me to constantly question the architecture in contemporary partnerships corpse-historical and spatial context. “Situationsarchitectur” coupled with “Dauerrefelxion” (Schelsky).
I never learned it off more.

Thus, architect and urban planner Jan Tanghe (° 1929), Fleming and cosmopolitan; figurehead inspirer and cement Planning Group which he helped found 25 years ago and of which he was the chairman until recently. He is also a professor at the “Faculté Polytechnique de Mons”, writer, lecturer, designer and its employees a “relentlessly slave driver” which, however, always himself took the lead. Especially the man flared musings that never fails to question things from a broader socio-cultural context.

Avoid all concrete questions he ahw Via outflanking movements and expensive terms. And all gesaust with quotations and references. He manages the ambivalent art to engage in reflexive multi-location: at the same time here and there, concrete and abstract, through an own thought system and under diving in other people’s books and articles, on the ground floor and into hemispheres, in Flanders and in the cosmos , realist and idealist. He can not let it broadly “culture-filozoferen” about city and people. It is his breeding ground and jumped paste to society.


Jan Tanghe was ear magazine Arch & Life – his bed spreads mainly in French-speaking Belgium (with management address in Liège) – proclaimed architect of the Year ’90. On that occasion typified prof. M. Gossé him in his laudation as “un homme libre intégré et, qui n’a jamais accepté d’autre que celui compromise qu’exigent la tolérance et le pluralism … Ses œuvres et ses idées, il a toujours accepté qu’elles soient discutées, critiquées, depots and cause, ce qui es tune qualité trop rate chez nous autres architectes qui sommes trop viscéralement attachés à nos œuvres and reconnaître pour les limites. “

The honor is bestowed me ‘Group Planning “to” replicate Jan Tanghe. “I grew up with” Planning Group “, am all these years been encouraged and supported. For me it is actually the Group to “Architect of the Year” is awarded “That partnership began in 1966 under a three-fold flag: bring the intended designers together which (a) were driven by a common philosophy about.” Architecture as socio-spatial context-task “, (b) the belief that diverse interdisciplinary skills and mutual cooperation were essential to tasks where this vision, © and from the insight that a group is more than the sum of its individual members. None architecture of individual creators. Well communicated inspiring group responsibility with social-ethical impact.

Meanwhile, the Group has grown to an agency that usually works with 40 to 50 professional staff from various disciplines and operates on two sites (resp. Bridges and Brussels). There were series of research reports, housing and other more prestigious building complexes realized (cf.. Submit an edition of Tecno 1986, under the title of Group Planning Partnership. Vision and Reality). We mention the European Parliament, “Concert Noble” and the hiking airlift on the Rue Belliard in Brussels, “the Guild” and the “Court of Watervliet” to Bruges as well as the remarkable holiday “Ter Duinen” Nieuwpoort.

Many believe that Jan Tanghe is urban rather than an architect. He replies by quoting colleague M. Gossé – without pre-qualify the praise to his address – “Jan Tanghe a insiste toujours sur les Responsabilités sociales de l ‘architect et leurs Implications sur le cadre de vie de chacun et de tous. and urbanism particulièrement, une democratization culturelle doit sans doute Temperer lesson pulsions esthétiques du Fort. L’urbanite littéralement est la politesse de l’architecture. Jan Tanghe est un homme d’une grande Urbanite. “

Architecture is an essential part of a moment in the urban fabric process, as well as streets and squares, trees and water, rain and sun, residents and their mobility, lighting and publicity. Cities are “hereditary be-signed collective memories”. And they must learn to read an architect.

Architecture does not stand alone. It is also not for himself. It exists at the mercy of the urban society.

Architecture consists of “the soul of the urban place”, the “genius loci”, to understand and serve a response. Call me architect and urban … the one and the other at the same time. An inseparable duo.


As regards the socio-spatial developments that have taken place in recent decades in Flanders, Jan Tanghe is not particularly elated. Rather disappointed and at times really angry.

I must admit that the balance is negative and that I, as regards the immediate future, rather pessimistic’m voting. We failed in a number of adverse developments which had a decidedly tame a degrading effect on the spatial and urban pattern.

Developments that have to do with economic and political pollution, one-sided industrial-commercial interests, the spatial little brutal impact of the macro-fixed-estate market and the pressure of tertiary functions, rising automobile mobility and many other autonomous working prosperity and technological trends that had an almost inevitable backlash and on the quality of our housing and living space. I always say “almost inevitable” … because it would otherwise have done with a careful planning policy and greater insight and courage because of our decision makers.

There is still a lack of socio-spatial ethics and long-term vision for the responsibilities. And the scientific reflection and shooting skills, especially in the policy deficit. Furthermore, there is no true democratiseringswil built into our Belgian-Flemish urban and spatial instruments. All this results in an unjust for the majority of the residents spatial (dis) policy … We have made the transition to the new time, with the overall approach of the space as a quality criterion is entered in the structure planning, did not materialize. “

And why not?
Because there is the move played political and economic orders which the ideas ontkrachtten. Since there was no political wisdom nor courage applied to work there. Because purely sectoral and bureaucratic set their minds elected to maintain their defensive bunkermentalitiet, out of fear of losing power and prestige. Because engineers and similar technocrats refused “the” soft matter “of the” social “space (philosophy, living ecology, sociology, etc.) into their system of thought. For good measure, the economic crisis and regionalization were gratefully seized upon” the lack of resources ““ the great alibi “ to invoke.

Today, one is here and what doing what traffic plan and speed bumps, some half-baked urban renewal, too much self-contained spectacle architecture … and “last but not least” the new Trojan horse, “city marketing”. A “yuppie-synonym” for the already known economic-driven urban sales.


Jan Tanghe “Architect of the Year”.
We make him aware of his architecture – the architecture of Group Planning – determined not to transfer within a certain style direction. It seems rather that he and his immediate associates react against one particular architectural expression that it must have the written up several times in the press, “Architecture with the big A … the Architectuurgestes”. Their architecture also does not belong at home with “the club of the Acclaimed Architects”. On that objection, Jan Tanghe again work his outflanking movements from which we distill some principles and views expressed here

Today, the designer of housing and living spaces must seek a new balance between (a) on the one hand the need for spatial coherence, continuity and contekstualiteit, and (b) that the dynamics of life, the needs of these postmodern times and the incorporation of change and renewal.

Unlike sculpture and painting, the architecture – as art and science – by no means the individual expression of a most individual artist. Architecture is essentially a social art. She has a servant, a social dimension. I compare the architect with a performer who is confronted with the interpretation of an “existing” score. That score is the architect neither more nor less the urban, the existing context, the resident, the user, the cultural landscape, in short data geculturalizeerde space.

The world of art and architecture critics is still entangled in modernist and postmodernist ideas which have in fact been dismissed from the sixties. They bite too easily in the praise of virtuosity and artistic expression shape and be tempted in this way by superficial fashions. Thus they do not penetrate into “the essence of our new world.

We’re at the postmodern era in which environmental and cohesion – the ecosystem -, continuity-in-change and socio-spatial context, the carriers must be our architectural and urban achievements. And that should result, not in a specific and object-oriented architecture style, but in more architectural expression that are the answer to a variety of socio-spatial contexts and relations.

And if this vision and building practice then evaluates from the principals, those users and residents, experiencing that from that angle an appreciation of the work done.

Upon our return we walk for a bit Bruges, a city in which Jan Tanghe invested a lot of study and planning work. One of his considerations comes to mind: “In Bruges, we realized not much vertical architecture Our architecture that consists mainly hectares redesigned streets and squares:. Horizontal architecture in which thousands and thousands of people make their way and find their companion also thanks to more spatial quality . “

Sieg Vlaeminck
from “The Standard” on 10-11 August 1991


Sieg Vlaeminck ° 1933
- Degree in social sciences ien in urbanization and spatial planning.
- Teaches philosophy and sociology at the Provincial Higher Institute of Architecture and Interior Art in Hasselt until 1991.
- Except for research work he published in several publications, and is the occasion contributor to “The Standard”. His areas of study and interest area situated in the area of ​​social ecology of living.

Werner Desimpelaere ° 1942
- Architect and urban planner
- Since 1966 member of Group Planning, there is Jan Tanghe involved in architecture projects and a number of urban development projects.
- Is the 1975 Partner of Group Planning and head of the department of architecture, and has been president since 1989.

Raf Desaegher ° 1951
- Architect, doctor-ingenior (Oslo), 78-85: assistant and assistant to the Univ of Oslo led by Norberg-Schulz. – Is connected since 1978 as assistant to the architecture institutes St-Lucas in Brussels and Ghent.
- Since 1985, Chairman of the European Group Vernacilar with seats; Oxford University, organizer of symposia.