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The modernity of the Bruges Neo Gothic style

By Luc Verpoest
26.01 2001

The twentieth century has passed, and you should agree that this age of rampant and inevitable modernization has passed completely to Bruges. Things started well, with the young Huib Hoste for example, who – at the dawn of the new century – tried to tear apart the strict neo-Gothic masters such as Jean Baptiste Bethune and Louis Cloquet.

(autotranslated) The twentieth century is finally over, and you do hear this age of rampant and inevitable modernization has passed completely to Bruges. A twentieth-century Bruges: you can not do so immediately imagine a bit … Things started well, with the young Huib Hoste (1881-1957) for example, who – at the dawning of the new century – tried to yank the strict neo-Gothic masters such as Jean Baptiste Bethune and Louis Cloquet … even in architecture Catholic than the Pope …

Even before the Great War, he teaches in the Netherlands know the work of Berlage, during the war he resides in the Netherlands and is helping to build the vanguard of De Stijl, with Van Doesburg, Mondrian, Old, From Tongerloo, Wils … Back in Belgium does he think that vanguard force as loosely on the reconstruction (Zonnebeke …) but the reconstruction made no mistake to be more than just lie reconstruction … a failed opportunity for modern architecture. Hoste tries it but in Bruges: a gorgeous design in 1918 for the expansion of the city library … Bruges and Berlagian once … but in all its simplicity and formal ingenuity of modern apparently too much for the old Bruges. Hoste remains but literally stand on the side, outside the city walls … In the late twenties he builds a radiant wreath of modest but undeniably modern homes, rare traces of twentieth century architecture of quality … where none of the Hundreds of thousands of tourists to looking back … mistakenly … also because no one suggests … wrongly … Hoste will try again in the late thirties, with a Corbusian district on the old railway along the Sand off … in vain.

Bruges appeared in the twentieth century did not get awake from a deep sleep where in the last quarter of the nineteenth century had ended up … numb, lulled by the many “arty repairs’ which previously ‘modernized’ their facades old face got back … a neo-Gothic or neo-Renaissance facelift … a sort of reverse facadism …
All it testifies undoubtedly of much historical knowledge architecture and architectural skills, unquestionable quality and is therefore worthy of our attention and appreciation and protection.
But we can only conclude that this other Bruges disappeared from view: the Bruges since the end of the eighteenth century became inevitable modernized … whitelist facades, whole streets full update the underlying ancient dwellings to fully contemporary townhouses , new modern town homes with a classic stateliness derived from a rigorous geometry, a modern city theater that literally breaks away from its historic city area, a modern prison and a modern hospital and large machinery, and a host of small and large industrial buildings within the city walls .. . a modern Bruges that threatens to replace old and therefore should be covered up with historicist facades … a relief … for the modern tourist, since the nineteenth century lured by medieval Bruges which gradually mythic proportions – literally – seems to assume…

Historicizing forms – from Gothic to classical – in the nineteenth century, of course, inevitably, there is no alternative for the time being (except that of the engineering architecture of iron and glass, constructed purely preserve its functionality …). But also historical forms of modernity can attest, are not necessarily outdated … whitelist facades of classic signature … but not just classicism neoclassicism. Also Gothic Revival is essentially modern: new Gothic … as the great modern complexes Louis dela Censerie … built with a limited range of formal and constructive standard elements that are endlessly revived: it seems a gothic neogothic prefabrication … veil that barely conceal the seductive modernity of the building knows.

Berlage then went a step further: for him it was the Gothic starting point but modernity has been more visible than in dela Censerie Hoste … and that seemed to have understood … in vain, for Bruges. An unexpected modern nineteenth-century Bruges, a modern twentieth century Bruges has left … In 2001, we try to bring the modern Bruges of the past two centuries are still in the picture … to really the next century in 2002 start … with modernity …

Luc Verpoest