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Renaat Braem

Antwerpen, Belgium
1 of 1

Renaat Braem (29 August 1910 - 31 January 2001) was a leading Belgian architect and urban planner in the latter half of the twentieth century. He graduated as an architect from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp in 1935, with a constructivism-inspired design for a linear city between Antwerp and Liege. He received the biannual Prix Godecharle the same year.

Braem used the money of the award to study abroad, working at the studio of Le Corbusier in 1936 and 1937. He became a member of the Congres International d'Architecture Moderne in 1937, and his first architectural realisations in these pre-war years were rooted firmly in the new "modern" style. He became one of Belgium's most prominent architects in the early 1950s, when he received two commissions from the city council of Antwerp: the development of the Administratif Center in the heart of the city, and a social housing project in Het Kiel (1949-1958), a neighborhood in the suburbs. The Administratif Center was only partly realised ten years later, and the one tower that was actually built in the end became the Police Tower (1952-1957), the headquarters of the Antwerp police force. The social housing project though became a landmark in the history of social housing in Belgium and one of the most important architectural realisations of the 1950s. Over the next two decades, Braem created many projects, ranging from private buildings to large scale housing complexes like the Model District at Heizel in Brussels (1956-1963), the high-rise district of Sint Maartensdal in Leuven (1957-1967) and the round office building for Glaverbel in Watermaal- Bosvoorde (1963-1967). He continued to apply the modernist language and based on the general concept of pure forms. His work was faithful to the Athens Charter of the CIAM until the late 1960s, when his work became less rigid and more organic, his first designs for international modernism tended to evolve its architecture gradually after more organic, biomorphic designs.

Braem was also an important figure in the study and debate of modern architecture in Belgium, cofounding important magazines like Plan, Architecture, or Bouwen en Wonen, writing articles, and being interviewed for radio, television and newspapers. He was one of the oginators of the Bouwcentrum in Antwerp, which tried to promote the industrialisation of the work of building through education and prototyping. In 1968, he wrote Het lelijkste land ter wereld ("The most ugly country in the world"), an essay against the postwar spatial planning of Belgium with an ecological warning as well. He published his memoirs Het schoonste land ter wereld (The most beautiful country in the world) in 1987. He moved to a nursing home in 1997. His private home, built in 1955, and all its contents (archive, library, furniture) was legated to the Flemish Community in 1999. He died in 2001 in Essen. His house was transformed into a museum, the second of its kind in Belgium after the Horta Museum in Brussels.

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Antwerpen, Belgium
lchiselef, September 19th, 2017
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