Institutions and the City
The Role of Architecture
What role does architecture play in establishing and maintaining public institutions that shape both society as a whole and our individual lives?
1st edition, 2022
Text in English, French and Dutch
224 pages, 148 color and 85 b/w illustrations
22 x 29 cm
Institutions such as the state, church, army, judiciary, bank, university—or even marriage—organize our social relations. As inherently social structures, they regulate societies according to various practices, rites, and rules of conduct, and guide our actions by delimiting what is possible and thinkable. An institution’s individual scope depends on society’s understanding of it. They are in perpetual mutation and thus form complex entities. Architecture plays an essential role in the establishment, identification, and perpetuation of this social structure as it formalizes value systems in space and represents ideologies in permanent physical structures.
Institutions & the City investigates how architecture establishes and reveals the way an institution functions through different strategies, taking the Tracé Royal (the royal route) in Brussels as an example of an urban figure. This succession of emblematic streets, extending from the Palace of Justice in the heart of the city to the Church of Our Lady and the Royal Domain in Laeken, is home to several of Belgium’s national political, legal, religious, financial, and cultural institutions. The book explores the strategies applied over time by the various institutions to leave a lasting inscription on the country’s social order, revealing similar spatial responses and surprisingly prevalent mutation processes. And it highlights the importance of architecture in inventing new relationships with institutional spaces in order to improve the way we live together in a time when social, political, and cultural reference points are being blurred.
Gérald Ledent is a cofounder of Brussels-based architecture firm KIS studio and professor at the Faculty of Architecture, Architectural Engineering, and Urban Planning (LOCI), Catholic University of Louvain (UCLouvain).
Cécile Vandernoot is an architect and architectural critic. She is pursuing her PhD and teaches at the Faculty of Architecture, Architectural Engineering, and Urban Planning (LOCI), Catholic University of Louvain (UCLouvain).