Design Sciences

Faculty of Design Sciences - History


The origins of the Faculty of Design Sciences can be traced back to the seventeenth century. In today's faculty, however, the only discipline that is directly associated with the Academy of Antwerp  - historically speaking - is architecture.

Architecture was taught at the Royal Academy of Antwerp (founded in 1663) from 1765 to 1946, or for about 180 years. It may seem obvious that architecture was a discipline at this reputable institution, but this is not at all the case.  The academy's founders, who included David Teniers, did express a wish to organise some form of training in "geometry, construction and perspective". Ultimately, the curriculum included neither architecture nor perspective due to a lack of funding and insufficient "critical mass" in house. In fact, there was virtually no need for new architecture in Antwerp in the mid-seventeenth century, let alone for new architects. Building was traditionally left to members of the guild of the Quatuor Coronati (Crowned Four, i.e. stonemasons, bricklayers, slaters and cobblestone layers). When a design - either a drawing or an application of the traditional style - was required, then St. Luke's Guild tended to claim the privilege of the disegno, or the development of an idea into a design.

Around 1700, Antwerp painter Abraham II Genoels, who also spent years in France and Italy, volunteered "to teach young people painting, sculpture, architecture and geometry, for the love of art". But at this point in time, there was still no separate class for aspiring architects. In 1756, painter Cornelis d'Heur took the initiative and organised a series of classes on the basics of geometry, architecture and perspective. Generally speaking, 1765 is considered the year in which the Antwerp Academy founded its own architecture programme. From then on, the academy’s architecture programme was a fixed feature until the decision was made, in 1946, to establish a separate institution entirely dedicated to architecture. Architecture was taught by a separate professor, Willem Herreyns, who was not supervised by the Academy's directors/professors. Willem Herreyns founded the architecture class and supervised it from 1765.

In 1807, the Academy moved from Nieuwe Beurs, where it had been established in 1663, to the secularised convent of the Friars Minor. The engineer Joseph Nicolas Mengin drew the plans for the refurbishment of the rooms and established a vision. The visual arts were installed on the ground floor, while the architecture and perspective classes were taught on the first floor. This division was maintained until the 1950s.

After World War II, architecture was no longer taught at the Antwerp Academy. The architect Léon Stynen (1899-1990), a dyed in the wool modernist, epitomises this division. He served as professor of architecture at the Academy from 1937 onwards. In 1944 he was appointed the deputy director under Isidoor Opsomer, the Academy's director.  Stynen felt that the time had come to reform the architecture programme, including its content. In doing so, he applied the ideas of the CIAM (Congrès Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne), an international association of modernist architects and urban planners he was associated with. In 1949 Stynen designed a new architecture school, to be built in Antwerp's Linkeroever district. But funding was lacking. Stynen approached Camille Huysmans and was able to convince him of the necessity to create a separate architecture school alongside the Academy.

The separation took effect in 1946, but two restrictions applied. The new Architecture programme would be taught on the same site as the Academy and architectural science would be considered higher secondary education. The reform of architectural education was only adopted under the Regent's Decree of 18 November 1949. It was determined that the programme would encompass five years of study. Following the Royal Decree of 5 May 1952, the separation of the architecture programme from the Academy was also made official. Its new name, Nationaal Hoger Instituut voor Bouwkunst en Stedebouw (NHIBS; the National Higher Institute for Architecture and Urban Planning) was also recognised and its programme certified as higher education.

The NHIBS offered an architecture programme as well as programmes in urban planning, interior architecture and architectural drafting. The status and syllabi of these programmes were not strictly regulated, unlike the architecture programme. In 1967-1968 the programme of the Urban Planning division was revised and regulated. The Interior Art division was established in 1946 (in 1964-1965 it was renamed Interior Architecture) but officially recognised only in 1969. Initially the five-year training involved both daytime and evening classes. From 1964-1965 the programme consisted of four years of daytime education. In 1952 the suggestion was made to found two new divisions, one for Industrial Designers  and another for restoring old monuments. The Industrial Design division was founded only in 1965. Monument Conservation had to wait until 1978.

The Higher Education Act of 1970 led to a first general reform of the Belgian higher education system. The law distinguished between two types of programme: short and long. The Interior Architecture and Industrial Design programmes were reclassified as Higher Art Education (equivalent to Bachelor and Master). The Urban Planning and Monument Conservation programmes were also reclassified as Higher Art Education, while the architecture programme was classified as Higher Art Education (long course). The NHIBS was then transformed into the Hoger Architectuurinstituut van het Rijk (HAIR).

After national education was abolished in 1989, when the competence for education was transferred to the communities, HAIR was renamed the Henry van de Velde-instituut in 1991. The transition from national to community education gave rise to the complete reorganisation of higher education in Flanders. A new structure and unified policy for higher non-university education was developed under the Framework Flemish Parliament Act of 23 October 1991 and the Flemish Parliament Act on university colleges of 13 July 1994. This had far-reaching consequences for the Henry van de Velde-instituut. In 1995 it forfeited its autonomy and was incorporated into the newly founded autonomous Flemish Hogeschool Antwerpen.

While this did not have much of an impact on the Architecture programme, the changes in Interior Architecture were significant. The entire programme was reviewed. The new university college no longer provided training in Architectural Drafting, Monument and Landscape Conservation or Urban and Spatial Planning. Urban and Spatial Planning (temporarily) became post-graduate training programmes, which were organised by the Centre for Adult Education in Deurne.  Finally the Industrial Design course was transformed into a new Product Development programme, spanning two cycles. When the internal organisation of Hogeschool Antwerpen was reviewed in 2000, the departments of Architecture and Product Development were once again combined in the Department of Design Sciences. They are considered two separate departments (Henry van de Velde Higher Institute for Architectural Sciences and Higher Institute for Integrated Product Development).

In 1999 the Bologna Declaration, which strove for a unified "European space for higher education", paved the way for the Flemish Parliament Act of 4 April 2003 on the structure of higher education. This legislation replaced the educational structure of graduate, candidate and licentiate degrees with professional and academic Bachelor and Master programmes as of 2004-2005. If the university colleges wished to organise academic programmes, they would have to associate themselves with a university. As a consequence, on 1 September 2003, the Antwerp University Association was founded. The department of Design Sciences of Hogeschool Antwerpen organised Bachelor and Master programmes in Architecture, Interior Architecture and Product Development as part of this association with the University of Antwerp. In 2005-2006 the Master programmes in Urban Planning, Spatial Planning and Design, and Monument and Landscape Conservation were also incorporated in the programmes offered by the Department of Design Sciences. In 2011 the Associated Faculty of Design Sciences was founded within the Antwerp University Association to prepare for the integration of these design and architecture-related academic programmes in the university. As of 2013-2014 the new faculty organises six academic Bachelor and/or Master programmes: Architecture (BA/MA), Interior Architecture (BA/MA), Monument and Landscape Conservation (MA), Urban and Spatial Planning (MA), Product Development (BA/MA) and finally Conservation & Restoration (MA). This latter programme was founded in 1988 at the National Higher Institute of Fine Arts in Antwerp, as the only academic programme for restorers in Flanders. As of 2013 it has become part of the new Faculty of Design Sciences.

Piet Lombaerde
Source: Els De Vos and Piet Lombaerde (eds.), Van Academie tot Universiteit: 350 jaar architectuur in Antwerpen, Brussels: UPA, 2013.