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Heritage in competition

The role of architecture contests

Open Monumentendag is the largest cultural one-day event in Flanders. The monument festival is already in its 32nd edition in 2020 and can count on great interest from the public and media every year.

Heritage Day (Open Monumentendag) is proof that built heritage continues to fascinate. The Open Monuments Day recipe is simple: hundreds of monuments throughout Flanders open their doors on the second Sunday of September. Heritage Days will also take place in times of the coronavirus, either in an alternative form. Archipel contributes by organizing an annual lecture and has invited this year Maarten Liefooghe, lecturer at Ghent University, to reflect on the role of architectural competitions in relation to heritage.

Architecture competitions such as Open Call and WinVorm have given an important impulse to the public building culture since the turn of the century and have increased the sense of ambitious experimentation. This lecture examines the way in which competition projects with an intervention in important heritage not only provide their own interpretation of the commission, but sometimes also of the relevant heritage. This is in tension with (the illusion of) a static and purely scientific heritage valuation. Heritage, on the other hand, appears as co-produced over and over in the present, and architecture is highlighted as a prominent interpretive practice and as a technical-cultural medium for curating heritage.

Photo 1: Malgorzata Olchowska, “The inherited city”, 2019 from the “Open Call” exhibition, photo: Michiel De Cleene.
Photo 2: Malgorzata Olchowska, “Archipelago of small and medium-sized cities”, 2019 from the “Open Call” exhibition, photo: Michiel De Cleene.

Maarten Liefooghe (° 1983) is a lecturer in architectural theory and history and a post-doctoral researcher at the FWO at the Department of Architecture and Engineering Sciences of Ghent University. His research in architectural theory and history focuses on interactions and intersections of art, architecture, exhibition and heritage practices. In addition to academic and policy-supporting publications, he occasionally writes art and architecture critiques.
Maarten Liefooghe graduated in 2006 as a civil engineer-architect after studies at Ghent University and the Technical University Berlin (as an exchange student). As FWO-researcher and as assistant, in his doctoral research ‘The monographic factor’ he investigated the architecture of artists’ museums, their ideological context, and their institutional and architectural hybridity. Today his research focuses on contemporary architectural culture, and in particular on architectural exhibitions as an experimental field in which the design and materialization of 1:1 and in situ exhibits may represent alternative strategies for problems in monument conservation. From 2013 to 2017, Maarten Liefooghe was a part-time lecturer in architectural history and monument conservation within the Art Sciences and Archaeology study program at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. In the spring of 2016 he was a visiting scholar at the Institute of Archaeology at University College London and in the spring of 2017 an ATCH research fellow at the University of Queensland (Australia).

In 2019 he organized, together with Maarten Van Den Driessche, as curators on behalf of the Team Vlaams Bouwmeester the traveling exhibition ‘Open Call. 20 years of architecture on a public assignment’. This project explores the Open Call architectural competition procedure as developed and used by the Flemish Government Architect and his team between 1999 and 2019. With the appointment of a Bouwmeester and the development of the Open Call, the Flemish government resolutely drew the card of an ambitious public commissioning and high-quality architecture and urban development. The Open Call enables public clients to appoint a design team for their projects in a transparent manner and with international reach. This is done on the basis of a clearly formulated social ambition and via a relatively light procedure, which focuses on quality as a selection criterion. Not only the current appearance of Flemish cities and municipalities, but also thinking and speaking about architecture in Flanders was partly determined by the Open Call.



We 16 September 2020 20:00


Prinsenzaal, Het Rustpunt
Prinsenhof 39
9000 Gent

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