Symposium: Reviving Modernist Utopia

By DOCOMOMO Belgium / September, 27, 2023 / 0 comments

SYMPOSIUM | 19-20.10.2023 | Maison de la Création – Modelwijk/Cité Modèle, Laeken

Symposium organised by Foyer Laekenois/Lakense Haard in collaboration with Docomomo Belgium and will be held in French (en savoir plus en français), Dutch (lees verder in het Nederlands) and English.

Reviving Modernist Utopia
Exploring Strategies for Regenerating post-war Modernist Housing Ensembles

Post-war social housing from the modern movement is frequently observed today in an unfavorable condition. These sites encounter not only technical, environmental, or policy challenges, but also social and cultural issues that have emerged over time. The significance of these structures as discursive components of post-war architecture, both in their physical and cultural-historical dimensions, has previously been recognized. However, developing strategies to effectively address these existing structures demands further attention. This colloquium aims to explore various facets associated with the regeneration process of post-war modernist housing ensembles, focusing on the following parameters:

1. Can “modern thinking” prevail over the physically built? What would the modernist do? How do we approach the dilemma of what has been constructed versus what was originally planned?

2. How can we analyze and capture the intangible heritage associated with these housing ensembles? Is this the key to preserving heritage in a dynamic and evolving manner?

3. What are the best practices that underpin successful regeneration processes? How do certain factors contribute to these processes? This involves establishing an inclusive project definition, recognizing the significance of heritage preservation, incorporating sustainable maintenance plans (through adaptive reuse), acknowledging and incorporating the perspectives of current and future inhabitants and owners, thereby fostering a socially responsible and sustainable approach to the built fabric.

4. Should rehabilitation efforts seek to mirror the existing societal perceptions, or should they strive to initiate societal change through the built environment?

5. What considerations should be given to the concept of de-restauration?

6. How can we navigate the delicate balance between preserving the historical integrity and embracing necessary interventions?

7. How can we bid farewell to a building or site in a respectful manner? How can we ensure the enduring presence of these structures’ spirit (genius loci) even after demolition, considering that they have significantly shaped our collective memories, experiences and identities?

By delving into these critical questions, this colloquium aims to shed light on the complex issues surrounding the regeneration of post-war modernist social housing ensembles and foster a deeper understanding of the multifaceted approaches required for their preservation and transformation.

Finally, this symposium will take place at the heart of one of the finest examples of modernist housing, the Cité Modèle, designed and built from 1956 onwards by a group of architects: Renaat Braem, Victor Coolens, Jean Van Doosselaere, Raymond Stenier van de group Structures, Émile Parent van de group L’Équerre, en René Panis.


Thursday 19 October 2023

  • 9:00           welcome and coffee
  • 9:30           SpeechesPhilippe Close, Mayor of The City of Brussels, Yves Lemmens, chief executive officer SLRB- BGHM, Zsuzsanna Böröcz, Chairman,momo_be
  • 10:00         Reviving the modernist utopia. Adaptive re-use as a method of re-evaluation ; by Marie Moors, doctoral student, Faculteit Architecuur en Kunst, UHasselt
  • 10:30         Van Ieder Zijn Huis (1952) naar de Studentenkoten (1973), 20 jaar omgaan met grootschalig modernistisch erfgoed in Brussel, gedreven door kennis, creativiteit en duurzaamheid. By Robin Engels, Architect Engineer and Master Conservation, Origin, Architecture and Engineering
  • 11:15         Entretenir le projet moderne. Retour sur une décennie d’expériences de rénovation d’immeubles modernistes de logements sociaux en Région Bruxelloise. By Géry Leloutre, architect, urban planner, bureau Karbon, chargé de cours ULB Faculté d’Architecture La Cambre Horta
  • 12:00         Break
  • 13:15         Pour une approche créative de rénovation des ensembles modernistes en Wallonie. By Jean-Michel Degraeve, architect, chroniqueur du milieu de vie
  • 14:00         Assessing heritage appreciation through implemented interventions. By Lidwine Spoormans, researcher, teacher and architect, TU Delft
  • 15:00         Réhabilitation et patrimoine. Un aperçu de 40 ans d’expérimentations en Seine-Saint-Denis. By Benoît Pouvreau, Historian, in charge of inventories at the cultural heritage department of the Seine-Saint-Denis département
  • 15:30         Break
  • 16:00         Le Quartier Nord : étude de faisabilité et approche. By Tomas Ooms en Simone Valerio, architects Studio Tuin en Werled, Kaderstudio
  • 16:30         Evolution des coûts et des projets en lien avec les exigences : l’Héliport. By Christophe Pourtois, Chief executive of the Foyer Laekenois
  • 17:00         Wijkmotor als drijvende kracht voor verduurzamen van woonwijken. By Edith Wouters, Artistiek coördinator AR-TUR platform voor architectuur en ruimte

Friday 20 October 2023

  • 9:00           welcome and coffee
  • 9:30           Speech. By Christophe Pourtois, Chief executive of the Foyer Laekenois
  • 9:45           Un projet silencieux. Le bâti du logement social à l’épreuve de la transition énergétique. By Giulia Marino, architect en teacher UCLouvain, LOCI-LAB, Super-Positions and Gérald Ledent, architect and teacher UCLouvain, LOCI-LAB, Uses&Spaces
  • 10:30         Table-ronde autours de la Cité Modèle : Philémon Wachtelaere, Ludo Bekker, Patrick Vanschoenbeek, Wessel de Jonge and Steven van den berg. Moderator : Géry Leloutre
  • 11:30         L’attachement des à leur habitat à l’épreuve de la rénovation : le projet de la Cité Modèle. By Mélusine Le Brun, architect-stedenbouwkundige, Laboratoire Sasha, Faculté d’Architecture La Cambre Horta, Université libre de Bruxelles
  • 12:00         La Chaussée d’Anvers. By Nicolas Bouquelle, BEAU, Bureau d’études en architectures urbaines
  • 12:30         Wido Quist, Secretary General, Docomomo International
  • 12:45         Conclusion, synthèse du colloque. By Liesbet Temmerman, architect, Chairman of the Foyer Laekenois
  • 13:00         Lunch Break
  • 14:30         Visit of the Cité Modèle site


Where: MC CITE MoDELE, Ruby alley, Annex block 3 – 1020 Laeken
Reservation required: link
Entrance: 10€ / one day- 15€ for both days. Includes morning and midday snacks.
To be paid into the bank account: BE54 3101 3350 2297