Apart from the obvious influence of Wright, which few architects in the twenties could have been immune to, the above characteristics are hardly derivatives of the international style works we know so well today. Rather, they seem to have arisen from De Koninck’s own ideas and “inventiveness”. At first glance, it appears that De Koninck was influenced by De Stijl, for the Lenglet house is, like the Schroeder house, a lightly sculptural cubic volume. But although Rietveld’s house was built in 1924, it was not known in Belgium until much later. What knowledge the Brussels modernists had of Holland and De Stijl ideas as dated and rather superficial. Apart from a few fortuitous articles by Oud and Van Doesburg, there were no texts magazines such as 7 Arts and La Cité which indicated a true grasp of neo- plasticist ideas.
Also, on closer examination, important differences between the architectures of Rietveld and De Koninck become clear. The Schroeder louse is basically composed of suspended, independent planes which define a fluid and dynamic space However these hardly correspond to the internal structure: while the large vertical planes on the façade suggest the presence of a double-height volume, the house in reality consists of two distinct levels, which are linked only by a small staircase.
In the Lenglet house on the other hand, the projecting volumes correspond directly to the internal organisation, thus expressing their origin and their reason for being.
As for the influence of Le Corbusier, De Koninck related that he was given a copy of ‘Towards a New Architecture’ in March 1924 ‘by a manager at Geba who had bought it in Paris’. Then he immediately added that although their interests “paralleled” each other, they did not “converge”.
Interestingly, the penultimate chapter of Le Corbusier’s work illustrates a project that bears a certain resemblance to the Lenglet house: the “mass-production artisans dwelling”. This was a standard cubic house with only one internal support, a large central column attached to a sculptural staircase which led to a loft set on the diagonal.
It should be noted, however, that by the time De Koninck got the book he had already made the square plan and single central support features of his own house. Furthermore, the vocabulary and syntax of the Lenglet house are quite different from the purist idiom of Le Corbusier’s small project. De Koninck never employed “theme objects” and whilst he continued to establish diagonal lines of movement, he never turned these into oblique constructions.
Text by Francis Strauven, doctor of Architecture and teacher at the Institut Supérieure d’Architecture, Belgium. Extract taken from the book “Louis Hermann De Koninck, Architect of Modern Times, published in 1989 by Maurice Culot and the Archives of Modern Architecture