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Chair BSI-citydev 2020 – lesson 4 : Curatorial Design (Marcel Smets)

How do people shape their environment?

“The new role of the urban planner is very similar to that of the curator of an art or cultural exhibition. The curator establishes a conceptual framework. He or she determines how the (often predefined) theme is expressed in the exhibition. However, he does not construct this interpretation on the basis of his own work, but through a well-considered choice of appropriate artists.

It is in the organisation of the exhibition, the arrangement of the works and the course of the visit that the curator tries to spread his message in a coherent way. The curatorial planner also determines the spatial conceptual framework. Here, however, he no longer acts as an architect himself, but selects the architects or gives advice in the selection procedures.

Often the urban planner/conservative is given the task of constructing the public space, the landscape framework in which the buildings will find their place. But unlike the curator of an exhibition, who can often afford to be stubborn, the urban planner/curator is usually forced to act as a negotiator in order to rally behind a plan the many government bodies, politicians, experts, developers, citizens and interest groups”. Quote from the forthcoming book “Fundaments of Urban Design”, by Marcel Smets.

Conservation of the city, co-creation and negotiation in urban planning will be the themes of the fourth course.

Marcel Smets

PhD civil engineer-architect, Marcel Smets has been a senior consultant at ORG Urbanism since August 2015.

He is also Professor Emeritus in Urban Planning at the University of Leuven, and served as Master Architect (Bouwmeester) for Flanders between 2005 and 2010. Marcel Smets is a founding member of ILAUD (1976); Visiting Professor at the University of Thessaloniki (1985) and at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (from 2002 to 2004).

He has been active in history and theory, with publications on Huib Hoste, Charles Buls, the advent of the Garden City in Belgium, and the reconstruction of Belgium after the First World War. He has worked as a critic for Archis, Topos, Lotus, Casabella and has been a member of the jury chairman of numerous competitions throughout Europe.

From 1989 to 2002, Smets was director of the urban architecture office Projectteam Stadsontwerp. He was chief architect and urban planner for several projects in Leuven, Antwerp, Hoeilaart, Rouen, Genoa and Conegliano, accompanied by some of ORG’s current directors, who were young collaborators at the time.

In particular, the transformation of the area around Leuven station was awarded a prize and enjoys very high visibility. In recent years, he has been urban planner-curator for the transformation of the Ile de Nantes in three consecutive studies. Through numerous research projects, publications and his own experience as an urban planner, Smets has managed to explore both the theoretical and concrete relationships between urban planning, mobility and landscapes.

Translated with (free version)


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