20 February 2023 – My first semester in Antwerp is done. Together with my colleagues Jan Degeeter, Koen Heyvaert, Nicolas Petillon en Fred Humblé, I supervised third-year students in the Architecture and Construction studio. The students studied the book Palazzi di Genova, in which the Antwerp Renaissance painter Pieter Paul Rubens presented etches of some 35 buildings.

There is much to learn from Rubens’s palazzos. Reduction of construction material and circularity are not recent inventions. It is interesting, for instance, that the walls were made from local rubble. The material economy developed into an art form. Over time, natural stone façade decorations were replaced by plaster imitations and even later by sgraffito.

With the knowledge gained, the students designed residential buildings based on palazzo-type architecture. The exercise aimed not to develop spectacular load-bearing structures and details. On the contrary, the student work is sober and practice-oriented. The synthesis of typology, materials, constructions, and geometric ordering systems into a rational plan was paramount.

A design booklet can be downloaded here (63 MB).