Belgium’s Nineteenth-century Houses: Agents of modernity?

Belgium’s Nineteenth-century Houses: Agents of modernity?

A city is defined more by its houses, than its cathedrals, its town halls or its court buildings. All human life is represented in its dwellings: from its row houses to its villas, its artisan cottages to its apartment blocks. During the nineteenth century, thousands of houses were built around urban centres in Britain and Ireland, where the single-family row house was the most common form of domestic architecture. When industrialization spread to the European continent, multi-family apartment blocks were built in and around the city of Paris. Most large European cities followed this template, but in Belgium, the single-family townhouse remained the dominant domestic form. Belgium was the first industrialized country on the continent, and was also the first in Europe to move out of the city into suburban villas, aided by solid transportation networks.

This project will build on research on the British and Irish context to examine the row house typology in Belgium. It will investigate a range of projects built between 1880 and 1920, a period of great changes in architectural design, as new technologies and materials transformed the way we build for all time. Blending fieldwork analysis with archival research, it will provide valuable insight into a much-ignored architectural legacy in Belgium, forming an important resource for conservation professionals. It will also examine the links between the nineteenth-century row house and its modern successor, exploring its role as an agent of modernity.

This post-doctoral research project is funded by a [Pegasus] Marie-Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship from the FWO (Research Foundation Flanders).

Supervision: Hilde Heynen (KU Leuven) & Inge Bertels (Universiteit Antwerpen).

Post-doctoral fellow working on project: Susan Galavan

Image source: Région de Bruxelles-Capitale/Inventaire du Patrimoine Architectural/Saint Gilles

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