• 29.b. House Lenglet, northeast view, 1926

    In the Lenglet villa, De Koninck, (…) developed in a masterly way an original and contemporary space. Without expressly knowing it, he concretised the statement by Hoste in 1918:

    “our architecture must become fundamentally an art of space”.

    Except for the bedrooms and utilitarian spaces on the ground floor, the house consists in a single continuous and attaching space, which is by no means uni-dimensional (as, for example, the “Meisterhauser’ which Gropius designed at Dessau about the same time) but which spreads out in all directions (around the air-conditioning casing which, however, is not affirmed as a machine but which is discreetly incorporated in a wall), vertically by the duplex, horizontally and diagonally on the upper floor through the corner frames.

    De Koninck’s space is not, by its nature or by its idiom, as dynamic as that of Horta. It develops from the soft (non-hierarchical) relationship of a number of places which are not attached to a specific function but which, thanks to their different reception of light and their reciprocal tension, acquire an identity of their own and thereby imply their own possibilities of interpretation.

    As studio, this space is not precisely functionalist: the big wall six metres high which Lenglet had required in order to place his large canvases does not receive light from the north as is normally suitable, but a diffuse light from all sides, especially from the frame of the upper corner to the south-east. One is particularly struck by the counterpoint between the arrival of light above the library and that coming from the conversation corner which juts out. Despite the discreet idiom, space enters here, so to speak, while curving upwards. This gives rise to a movement, despite the static form and, just as in Horta’s work, one feels the space differently according as one contemplates it from another angle. This spatial tension is not only aesthetic, but it confers a measure on the different human activities and illuminates their relationships.

    This genuinely contemporary structure also finds a faithful expression outside. The northeast facade shows the same structure as the plan and the section (four squares in relation with each other).

    Thus the object character of the neo-platonic archetype is broken and this architecture acquires at the same time a countenance of its own on which the internal relationships can be read. These relations between equivalent and unified individualities tend towards a new style, a new idiom.

    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