CREATING UNIQUE SPACES - Vision on the role of the architect

Architecture has always been a profession with close bands to society and the values it seeks to uphold. How people are housed, how different functions manifest themselves, how public space is formed,... Designing space is irrevocably linked to how people will use it and how life will play out within it. Hence, the ever increasing complexity of society as a whole inevitably affects the diversity and complexity of the technological, legal, social and cultural challenges that architects, and other spatial actors, are confronted with today.

MULTIDISCIPLINARITY AS STARTING POINT

An open philosophy and spirit of cooperation between disciplines is, in my view, the best way to guarantee that we will continue to be able to provide answers to these challenges. For designing space is more than architecture alone. It is a synergy between urban planning and design, architecture, landscape design, interior design and structural and technical engineering. In an ideal project all of these disciplines come together in an integrated approach, offering solutions that surpass the original expectations. Complexity demands specialization. It is no longer realistic to expect one person to process the multitude of information, of rules and regulations, of legal risks and restrictions, of sustainability demands, as a kind of new Renaissance Man. Hence, multidisciplinarity - within our own office, but also with external colleagues and experts - is the starting point. Each actor offers their own expertise and added value to the process. 

However, good spatial design is not just a collection of different inputs. These must be brought together within a coherent vision and global concept. And this is where the architect of today must play a central role. We are uniquely placed within the process of designing and building space. We are the central point of contact between stakeholders: owners, clients, developers, end users, administrations, governments, town and city planners, specialists, engineers, sustainability experts... The list is endless. We as architects must be versed to speak all their respective languages, to truly listen to their expectations and demands, to interpret their input and to bring everything together into a single concept, a design. The architect is not only a designer, but also a coordinator, a director if you will. Our role is to bring out the best in the different actors, creating unique spaces for our clients and for society as a whole. 

This is, in my view, a big responsibility. Society is formed by its buildings and spaces as much as the buildings and spaces are formed by society. It is important we don't take this responsibility lightly. Investing in architecture is investing in a sustainable society. Or at least, it should be. That should be our collective goal.

INVESTING IN A SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY AS COLLECTIVE GOAL

This collective goal is, of course, not solely the responsibility of architects. As said, we are constantly working within a network of actors and stakeholders. Foremost, we always work with (for) a client. It is important to have a clear vision of the relationship between the principal and the architect. It is, after all, a joint search for a balance between dream and execution - based on clear social, architectural, technical and economical parameters - that creates the opportunity to suggest solutions that are both qualitative and sustainable as well as feasible. 

We aim to guide our clients through the ever more complex landscape (both literally and figuratively speaking) within which space is created and projects are realized. This starts with a thorough project definition. This is not to be misunderstood: we aim to clearly define the question rather than the solution the principal may already have in mind. The principal brings to the table his dreams, goals and ambitions, while the architect adds the knowledge of the process, of the context, of design, of the other specialist advices needed, of construction... We are spatial thinkers that guide the debate and the creative process.

STIMULATING OPEN DIALOGUES AND SOCIAL DEBATE

It is this debate and creative process that we hope to continue beyond any specific project. In our view, the social responsibility of the architect goes beyond the creation of qualitative and sustainable buildings in itself. As these buildings are part of a larger spatial and social context, the architectural debate should take place in this larger context as well. 

To participate in a larger discussion, it is also important to start by looking into oneself. At BURO II & ARCHI+I, the scale of our office not only allows us to take on complex projects, but also offers room for internal reflection and debate. From there, we hope to be able to take part in and even stimulate a broader social and architectural debate. We try to use our resources to bring current spatial topics to the fore, because we believe it is essential to bring together different viewpoints and facilitate a dialogue. Whether it be through our Open Academy events or through our six monthly publication ALERT (architecture, living, ecology, research, team), we actively try to promote the position of our profession in today's ever evolving society.

But we also hope to bring new elements from this broader context back into our way of thinking about space. A continuous input of new information and challenging opinions - both technological and cultural - can only help us to remain critical, alert and committed to fulfilling our role for a more sustainable society. A society with unique spaces that provide room for the lives that will unfold within them.

Rita Agneessens, CEO

Partner, architect – urban planner

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Association of Architects G30
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