Jo Crepain
Anterwerpen in my mind
Ziche Alberta, January 21, 2008
Jo Crepain_Axa Bruxelles
Jo Crepain_Axa Bruxelles
In Holland a project for 50 homes is considered small-scale, whereas in Belgium it would be huge; projects for 100 or 200 homes or apartments are considered the norm in Holland.
The whole system of the building companies and how they build is different. In Holland they use prefabricates, tunnelling, something that doesn't exist in Belgium, where we work on a smaller scale. It's very interesting to work in Holland, and I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to work both there and in Belgium, to have experienced two different mentalities, two different ways of building and thinking about architecture. It's all very interesting.

Jo Crepain_Axa Bruxelles
Jo Crepain_Axa Bruxelles
Z.A. : Walking around Antwerp, we noticed how much freedom building companies and architects enjoy; it is much easier for them to work in places of historical interest here than in Italy. Why this freedom? Is it a result of urban planning regulations?

J.C.: In actual fact, I must say it's becoming more and more complicated here too; we are aware that we made a lot of mistakes in the '60s, '70s and '80s, when people tended to demolish old town centres, and they are now all aware that that was wrong.
They all say "we shouldn't have done it", for instance, the places that were converted into parking lots; now we are restoring everything to the way it was before. And so we come through a dark age in architectural terms, and I think it was the same all over the world between the 50s, the end of the second world war and the end of the 20th century: a lot of mistakes were made; I think modernism had a negative impact on both urban planning and architecture.

Jo Crepain_Axa Bruxelles
Jo Crepain_Axa Bruxelles
Now we all know that what we did was wrong, we are more aware and more attentive to historical aspects, not only in Antwerp but all over Belgium. Bruges, for example, which everyone considers a treasure, did not suffer major changes; no big mistakes were made there, whereas in Antwerp there were some major errors. But now there is a greater sense of responsibility.
The cultural heritage authorities are more aware of the importance of our historical and artistic heritage and they have the support of the politicians; anyone who tries to do something in an old town centre, either build or restore, will be subjected to strict controls. This is why I say it's become more difficult in Belgium too. It is much harder to work in historic town centres here than it was twenty years ago.

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