Louis Cloquet (1849-1920): Architectural writings of a critical engineer

Laurens Bulckaen and Rika Devos
BATir Department, École polytechnique de Bruxelles

Louis Cloquet (1849-1920): Architectural writings of a critical engineer

Civil engineer Louis Cloquet was a key figure in architecture culture in Belgium at the turn of the twentieth century. Trained as ingénieur civil des ponts et chaussées, he became an important author in architecture journals and an active and appreciated architect, involved with diverse institutions, disciplines and practices. In Ghent, he was affiliated with all three schools of architecture, inspired by divergent ideologies: the catholic Sint-Lucas school (based on an arts & crafts training), the Academy of Fine Arts (following the beaux arts tradition) and the Ghent University, where the Ecole polytechnique organised the training in ingénieur civil architecte. As a professor of architecture at Ghent University, he published his teachings in the five volumes of his Traité de l’Architecture (1898-1901), an annotated, encyclopaedic work of theory that illustrates the scientific rigueur Cloquet sought to introduce, calling for a new kind of architect: ‘artiste et ingénieur’.
The paper will highlight the “critical position” of the engineer Cloquet in his writings on architecture, based on a selective reading of his Traité and his articles in the contemporary specialist press. The paper will question the impact of the specificity of the engineer’s view on architecture, built on his advanced knowledge of new building technologies and experience in the processes of “scientification” of engineering and its teachings. Can Cloquet’s ideas on architecture, as defended in his writings and illustrated in his buildings, be understood as an inherent, but pervading criticism on the contemporary state of building in Belgium, taking a stance in ongoing debates on the position of architects, the basis of knowledge in building, engineering versus art, the importance of traditional architecture, etc.?
This paper will present preliminary research results on the history of architecture criticism in Belgium (20th century), the topic of the master thesis of the first author.

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