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BRUSSELS STUDIES INSTITUTE 2020 Chair: “Architecture and urban planning in the age of populism”.

Inaugural lesson: “Architecture and Urbanism in the Age of Populism”, Alexander D’Hooghe.

We live in an age of populism, fuelled by a mistrust of the elite, alienation from our ever-widening environment and a growing class and income divide.

Before we die from climate change, the escalation of our differences of opinion could well lead to physical conflict.

Architecture and urban planning cannot solve the world’s problems, but can certainly contribute, through well-chosen interventions, to proposing solutions to this specific problem.

We need to address our inability to read and experience our environment. We cannot understand what we belong to if we do not increase urban and regional legibility on a larger scale. This requires the integration of thinking on a regional spatial scale, leading to very concrete and constructive interventions, which can only be achieved through regional design and infrastructure planning on a broader scale.

We need to address our inability to relate to each other, by looking at the possibilities of coexistence and even mix of income groups in urban environments. Similarly, the reintroduction of production (light industry) in urban environments, which requires innovative construction typologies, should be encouraged.

We also need to address our inability to shape the world around us, structuring design processes with substantial bottom-up co-creation, allowing citizens to regain control.

Finally, we must address our inability to identify ourselves by developing architectures that respond to an aesthetic of empathy and recognition.

Every inability is also an opportunity to improve our design tools: to include large-scale regional design, to include and develop mixed production typologies, to design in a co-creative way and to invent the aesthetics of empathy and recognition.

Alexander D’Hooghe
Urban design and analysis

Alexander D’Hooghe is a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston. He is also a founding partner of a design office in Boston and Brussels. This office is a real think tank for urban planning and architecture “Organization for Permanent Modernity”.

Previously, he was also director of the MIT Center for Advanced Urbanism, where his work focused on large-scale contemporary design issues.

His thesis, entitled “The Liberal Monument” (Princeton, autumn 2010) has been published internationally.

More recently, numerous articles have appeared in specialist journals in Germany, Israel, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and the United States, exposing his urban designs and analyses of sites around the world (New York, Shenzhen, Brussels, Ostend, The Hague, Reykjavik, South Korea, or even parts of Russia, etc.).

Its design office develops sustainable architecture: projects developing simple solutions capable of meeting complex demands and requirements. Recent or ongoing projects include: the master plan for the Abattoirs district in Brussels; development prototypes for the peripheral districts on the east coast of the United States; a series of facilities and public centres around Brussels; a plan for the protection and development of the coastline between France and the Netherlands…

D’Hooghe obtained his PhD at the Berlage Institute in 2007 with Delft University of Technology, after obtaining a Master’s degree in Urban Design at Harvard Graduate School of Design in 2001, and a Master’s degree in Architecture and Civil Engineering at the University of Leuven in 1996. He has worked with Rem Koolhaas and Marcel Smets among others.

Date and place

Monday 2 March 2020
Bibliothèque Solvay, rue Belliard 137 in 1040 Brussels


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