Dirk Somers creates a fictional city of fifty recently completed Flemish buildings

Dirk Somers, founder of the Antwerp studio Bovenbouw Architectuur, has created a “fictional but recognizable” Flemish city called Composite Presence for the Belgian pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale of Architecture.


Composite presence it is built from 50 models of recent projects in Brussels and Flanders – a region in northern Belgium – which have completed 45 studies of contemporary architecture shown at a scale of 7: 100.

The models are housed together in miniature neighborhoods provided by visitors Venice Biennale of Architecture I can walk among them to experience the city of fantasy.

The exhibition contains models of 45 studio buildings

“Scenography explores how architecture steps in those places that have grown in a more informal and unintentional way,” Upgrade architecture founder Somers told Dezeen.

“We are exploring how architecture can make up for places where urbanism came a little too late,” he added.

“The selection doesn’t show the top 50. Instead, we went in search of projects stemming from the informal and highly mixed cities we know in Flanders.”

Superstructure Architecture Venice Biennale installation
It is presented through different architectural styles

Some of the projects on display are new buildings, while others are adaptations, but all have been selected to represent visual themes that are common in Flanders.

“We call the landscape model a capriccio, according to Canaletto’s paintings in which buildings from different cities made up fictional urban scenes,” Somers explained.

Buildings from Flemish cities in the Belgian pavilion
The exhibition creates a fictional city

“What you experience is fiction and reality in overlap,” he added. “Visual themes from Belgian cities are recognized, but in a way you’ll never see in reality.”

“In Belgium, we are struggling with the label‘ the ugliest country in the world ’following the book by modernist Renaat Braem,’ he continued.

“But in set design, we use friction and anomaly to produce a fascinating and enjoyable rich experience.”

Exhibition at the Venice Biennale of Architecture
Fifty wooden models were built

Somers pointed out that the urban design of cities in Flanders created unique circumstances which in turn led to innovative design.

“The weak urban base of our cities creates many unusual conditions that these projects use to their advantage,” he said.

“We find very narrow, very deep or very shallow plots, we see dramatic leaps in scale, distorted lines of buildings, public buildings hidden in the back of a building block, different styles and ideas of architecture side by side.”

A visitor walks among the models in the Belgian pavilion
The curator of the exhibition was Dirk Somers from the Antwerp studio Bovenbouw

In addition to providing an architectural experience to visitors, the Belgian pavilion also wanted to emphasize the role that tenders and quality tendering procedures play in urban design.

Among the buildings on display public library by OFFICE, a social housing project, Architectenbureau Bart Dehaene and an attic for organ by 360 Architecten.

“We also emphasize the importance of the middle field in the genesis of architectural quality,” Somers said.

“Many projects have emerged through tenders and quality tender procedures,” he added. “City architects and quality chambers play an important role in providing the right opportunities that good designers can incorporate.”

Modeling houses in Flanders
It is exhibited at the Venice Biennale of Architecture

All models were made by carpenters from treated wood, supervised and completed by the Bovenbouw Architectuur between January and June 2020.

“We used leaf materials such as poplar plywood, spruce plywood and colored MDF,” Somers said.

“The materials were left bare or painted, lubricated, painted, sanded … to provide a rich experience of textures and colors.”

Large wooden models of Belgian houses
Finally, the models will be assigned to the participating studies

The studio tried to use FSC and PEFC-certified wood as much as possible, but could not guarantee that all the wood was used for construction, as the models were also made from wood scraps and materials from different carpenters.

The exhibition will move to the Z33 Art Museum in Hasselt, Belgium, in 2022, after which the models will be given to participating studios.

He ordered a composite presence Flanders Institute of Architecture (VAi).

It’s a photo Filip Dujardin.

The composite presence is on display at the Belgian pavilion in Giardini as part of the Venice Biennale of Architecture, held from May 22 to November 21, 2021. See the Dezeen Guide for all the latest information you need to know to attend the event, as well as a list of others architectural and design events taking place around the world.

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