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Lunch with out of the ordinary Julien de Smedt

Yesterday marked the closing event of the second season of Forum Communication’s ‘Lunch with an Architect’. Held at the studios in Flagey, the invited guest, Julien de Smedt, attracted around a hundred professionals from within the real estate industry. JDS has offices in Copenhagen, Brussels and Shanghai and has worked in over 45 countries across the globe.

The projects which Julien de Smedt presented to the audience were spectacular, and he wasn’t too proud to show a project for a competition which he did not win, in Manila. The project demonstrated the ‘totally out of the ordinary’ nature of the work of his bureau, as it resembled a huge tree, with real trees spouting from the top and the bottom… This example offered the opportunity to address an issue which has been affecting Brussels for a long time: delays. Julien de Smedt explained that the project presentations were in the morning, the jury deliberations in the afternoon and the announcement of the winner in the evening. “Perhaps there’s something we could learn in Brussels…” he concluded.

Along with other spectacular housing, office and mixed use projects was the most unusual of all: a cantilevered ski-jump in Norway which can also be used for concerts!

The philosophy behind Julien de Smedt’s work was summed up by a number of key elements. Paying as much attention to the ‘unbuilt’ as to the ‘built’ parts of denser cities, and merging constructions with nature, are key. Rooftop gardens and public spaces, for example, are a way of replacing the ‘garden’ on the ground which you have swallowed up by building in the first place. An example of this is the new congress palace in Charleroi, where the public can walk up gently inclined slopes from the esplanade to the huge roof area.

He went on to explain that it is vital to have interest in the players within a city (the people) not just the buildings. He also advocates combining architecture and infrastructure, believing that infrastructure is too often treated as something which is merely functional. It needs to add real quality to life. Addressing the diversity of people was demonstrated by a housing scheme in France which includes 76 different types of apartments in a total of 220! Along with this element, flexibility has to be built in – this was a prerequisite for a police station in Antwerp, because the police department knew it would have to move sooner or later as the district expanded.

In another dig at the Brussels authorities, Julien de Smedt showed some street furniture called stoops – places where people can sit and talk – which he placed (without authority it has to be admitted) in a square in central Brussels. These were popular and much used for a year and a half, but when a group of drunkards started to gather there and disturb the locals, the response of the authorities was to take away the stoops, rather than the people…

The next season of ‘Lunch with an Architect’ begins in October.

Forum Communication founders Nathalie Zalcman (left) and Kathleen Iweins, with Julien de Smedt
Forum Communication founders Nathalie Zalcman (left) and Kathleen Iweins, with Julien de Smedt

| 09/06/2017

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