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Eduard Van Steenbergen (1889-1952) tussen Modernisme en Regionalisme

Book - Dissertation

Subtitle:van Architecturale Paradigma’s tot een Lezing van het Publieke in Deurne
Because it is representative of the timeframe in which it was created, the high-quality oeuvre of the local modernist Van Steenbergen - historically and theoretically largely unexplored - provides an excellent case for a better understanding of architectural realisations between regionalism and modernism in the interwar period in Flanders. The starting point of this research is that the specificities of modernism and regionalism are not exclusively embedded in historical canons or theoretical frameworks but rather in the local manifestations of these larger narratives. We follow Alan Colquhoun's view that the true meaning of the modern movement lies in 'the unconscious substratum of theory', which must be recognised in the architectural work. Thus, the theoretical view is used to interpret how Van Steenbergen's personal commitment in a local context translates into form. To this end, the three major form-related paradigms of the Modern Movement - the expressive, the functionalist and the monumental - are used to examine three case studies in Deurne (Antwerp): the Unitas Tuinwijk (1923-1932), the Koninklijke Atheneum (1936-1940) and the Deurne Town Hall (1947-1964). We study the architecture of three public programmes with a focus on their formal relationships to public space and the urban level. It concerns a micro-history that consists of three synchronic studies, each based on a paradigm; furthermore, the hybrid forms of the three paradigms describe the diachronic story throughout the oeuvre. We conclude that Van Steenbergen's relationship to modernism and regionalism is not only about form characteristics, but mainly about attitudes, adaptive positions and strategies with which he confronts the issue of form. And with paradigms such as the expressive, the functionalist and the monumental, Van Steenbergen converts these attitudes into (change of) form. With the pragmatic application of these form characteristics and their hybrid forms in the three designs, the oeuvre of Van Steenbergen positions itself in various capacities relative to the public and the community. The architect’s practice becomes a continuous process of negotiation: form, scale and programme are constantly being rethought in relation to social and contextual levels. The oeuvre of the architect aptly shows how the dialectic between modernism and regionalism becomes manifest in the formal and substantive transformations of the paradigms and is materialised in the site-specific approach of the assignment.
Number of pages: 329
Publication year:2021
Keywords:Doctoral thesis