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Lucien Kroll

Buildings and Projects

Introduction by Wolfgang Pehnt

Return of the Sioux

Wolfgang Pehnt Lucien Kroll, the Belgian architect, is responsible for a body ofwork that reaches back over a period of several decades. But up to the present, visitors who see buildings of bis team for the first time will feel the shock of a totally unexpected encounter. Bis largest project up to now, the students' quarter at Woluw-Saint Lambert near Brussels, has proved to l?e a major architectural attraction. Nevertheless, it always offers an amazing experience in its seemingly chaotic overall effect, in its absence of an ordering principIe, in its supposed arbitrariness, and in its bizarre appearance. It stands opposed to the whole rationalist tradition of building. Lucien Kroll is indeed diametrically opposed to all those who always know how their own as well the arcbitecture of others has to be. If Kroll belongs to a particular tradition, it is not to that of writers such as Filarete of the 15th or Abb Laugier of the 18th century, who saw the temple inherent in the straw hut. If he is allied at all, it is probably more to the "dreamers' characters," as Viollet-le-Duc called them - those who do not teach the birds what kind of nests to build, but who would help them make their nests according to their own nature. Kroll's place is among those who are less interested in the pyramids than in the tents at their bases, less in the cathedral than in the surrounding maze of houses. The order he advocates is not that of the preconceived form, which regulates all details at the outset, but that which results from specific cTcumstances and conditions. and produces a variety of solutions. He would never sing the praises of the straight line, like Le Corbusier; neither could he, unlike Le Corbusier, ever upbraid natural winding tracks as "donkey paths." For over three decades Kroll has been dedicated to the support of the organic against the orthogonal- the civilians against the militarists. the skillful craftsman against the engineers. He speaks of the return of the Sioux to the cities of F W Taylor. of the revolt of the Celts against the Romans. It concerns him little that, in view of some plucky raids on the trivial workaday world, there is a tendency to be reminded of the Celts in the ..Asterix" comics, rather than the intricate ornamentation of Celtic codices. Dreamers do not become extinct, even if the great dreamer-cultures (Celts, Indians, Aztecs, Hindus) have long since been superseded by mechanistic civilization.l Evidence that such ancient bonds still exist. and need only to be rediscovered, was given remarkable verification by Kroll during his assignment for Perseigne, a housing project in the small town of Alen<;on on the border between Normandy and Brittany. Kroll's studio was called in as planning consultants after tenants had protested against the regimented living conditions in the tenements of an unbenevolent welfare accommodation. A critical moment during the revolt was the beating of a janitor who had forbidden tenants to walk on the lawns. As soon as the ban was lifted, a lattice of trails immediately sprang up; in Kroll's words, the ancient pedestrian culture of the Celts opposing the angularity of Roman planning. Krolllater decided to integra te one of the spontaneously emerging diagonals into a school that was originally constructed as a complex of separate houses. Local farmers were later to tell him that previously a very ancient route had followed the same path. A once-revered pattern had broken through all the new construction, like a palimpsest. Collective memory seemed to have been at work in the tracks left by the people, and in the planning decisions that followed them. It must have been of significant importance for Kroll to come into contact, in the 1960s, with the relics of a culture not determined by Western European rationality. In the wake of this work at a settlement of Benedictine monks in Ruanda, he was offered commissions in the new capital. This induced him into a study of the traditional way of life in Central Africa. As with his Dutch colleague Aldo van Eyck, whose travels to Pueblo and Dogon unlocked bis feeling for the architecture of symbolic places, Kroll's doubts about the belief in progress, and the supremacy of the western peoples, were corroborated by the continuous existence of archaic structures. "The Occidental has formed for himself an image of humanity in which he is lord and master of the universe, and he arrogates the most extensive privileges possible over all creations of nature and life," said Claude Lvi-Strauss. The comfort and technology of the West have been dearly bought. Nobody, as Van Eyck puts it, was any more convinced "of being a definite somebody, who lives in a definite place." 2 Kroll's insights into the archaic nature of human behavior of habitation were augmented through experience in the field. What the diagonal trails at Alen<;on-Perseigne were to signifynamely the perpetual presence of a collective design - he saw in Ruanda as spontaneous manifestations of a sense of locality in the shanty towns (which the squatters, in spite of the

1. Eugene-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc. The first building. Histoire de l'habitation humaine. Pars, n.d. (1875).

: Lucien Kroll. Fr eine Entmilitarisierung des Bauens. In: Freibeuter 12. Berlin, 1982, pp. 78f. , Claude Lvi-Strauss. From address at the presentation o the Erasmus Prize, Rotterdam 1973. - Aldo ,"an Eyck. In: Alison Smithson, ed., Team10 Primer. London, 1968. Quoted in: Arnulf Lchinger. Struknlralismus in Architektur und Stiidtebau. Stuttgart, 19 1. p. 14,36.

2. AiCria1view of vernacular housing settlement in Zambia. From: Bernard Rudofsky. Architecture Without Architects. New York, 1965.

poverty of these improvised, over-populated and endangered settlements, shared with the inhabitants of native vernacular housing). Such insight comes from not interfering with the socalled "unwitting." That it is the task of the specialist to apply himself to the reflection of this wisdom, became one of the fundamental premises for Kroll's CEuvre. Because our society is based upon division of labor and is thus fragmentary, agreement on what is intended, and necessary, has to be reached beforehand, and must complement the process of design, at least for someone like Lucien Kroll, who wishes to design for, and with, those who are to be affected. This knowledge is not a matter of course, and can't be gained once, for ever. In the pluralistic conditions of life in our age, it also cannot be carried over fram one commission to another. The requirements of the tenants in an endlessly long apartment house in a welfare project cannot be compared to those of villagers in the Loire. Even the methods by which requirements are ascertained must vary. For the student accommodation at Woluw-Saint Lambert, a group of students participated in hour-long discussions with the architects. In Alen<;on the consultants had to enquire from door to door (the people there do not come of their own will, one has to go to them). At Amiens, during the renovation of welfare tenements, they employed professional sociologists, and even used the local cabletelevision to broadcast proposed alterations to the 160 households involved. And what if nobody is there, such as in a new district where future residents are not known, with whom one can discuss things before the furniture truck arrives at the door? Someone is always there, says Kroll, one never begins at zero. There are people in the area, one can get them together with a few neighbors and invite them in for a drink. One always hears something useful for the work in hand: how they live and would like to live, what their cultural options are, what customs are practiced in the place. Even spontaneity has to be organized. The way in which these enquiries and negotiations are conducted, dev~lpd, and utilized determines the success of the blueprint. Activities and inter-activities such as these affect, and encroach upon, a multiplicity of interests: employment of capital, the touchiness of bureaucracy, the prescriptive rights and occasional inertia of surveyors' offices and authorizing agencies, and the calculations of builders who fear that unconventional demands could increase construction and administration costs. It is primarily here, where individual commitment is necessary, that the problems lie. Of utmost concern are the personal qualities of those involved: the inherent difficulties in communication between laymen and specialists, the offended managers who see their autonomy and hitherto uncontested competence threatened, and of course, the personal characters of Kroll and his associates. Also, how many people are prepared to become involved in time-consuming discussions, with questions of financing and building laws, and how many are capable of articulating their own int~rests while not ignoring those of their neighbors? Incipient enthusiasm, the problems ofrealization, the opposition of initially assenting authorities and interruption of work after the first realization - these have colored the course of many of Kroll's projects. Occasionally, as in the case at Woluw-Saint Lambert, work was resumed after years in which nothing more seemed possible. Basically this stop-and-gomethod, which is permanently on the verge of failure, is more in accord with Krall's philosophy than a speedy and smooth execution. To stipulate the objective, and then make every effort to achieve it with the most favorable ratio between expenditure and productivity, is the method of the military, not of the Sioux. Kroll's work does not aim at perfection; he does not erase the marks of the creative process; thus suspension and incompletion are integral constituents of this architecture. At some point, however, these may become the departure for new and extended developments. It may be painful for Kroll that the results of his activities so often remain fragmentary, but that conforms to his own principies. Underlying such ingenuity is a different understanding of time. Obviously, Kroll also has to calculate with fixed data. His work is also constrained by the necessity to amortize invested funds as quickly as possible. However, impetus for a job is not confined to the period between the acceptance of a commission and the moment the last invoice is filed. The idea o a startingpoint o zero is not accepted; something is always present that has to be broached, cultivated, and developed. By the same token, a project is not concluded as soon as the architect puts it aside - it is subjected to changes and additions; it exists urther or sustains damage. Puristic architecture becomes dubious because o the changes it undergoes after construction - the fate o the canonical Modernists. In contrast, Kroll's architectural concept is not to be defeated by time. Whether the occupants extend it, or it becomes overgrawn with vegetation, the architect would hope for nothing less.

It was an opportune coincidence that Krall's path should cross that of the Dutch ecologist and landscape-gardener Louis Le Roy. The rubble-gardens laid out by Le Roy at Woluw-Saint Lambert, which very quickly found the disapproval of officialdom, have presuppositions similar to Krall's architecture. Le Roy also sees incompletion not as a flaw, but as a condition of evolving life. He also works with found materials, even the most deficient and undignified. He utilizes the debris and wreckage of the building site for horticultural differentiation, and this encourages a manifold variety. Le Roy's gardens renounce pedantry, systematization, and all activities by which man violates nature while seeking the quickest possible praductivity. Divergency, complexity, and opulence result, according to Le Roy, from calmness. That which has to be accomplished quickly is monotonous, that which is given time to grow, multifarious.1 Let that which germinates graw, and keep human interference to the essentials. This maxim from Le Roy complements Kroll's admonition: "You should not manufacture a city, you must let it build itself." 2 Even where Kroll has had to complete large works within short deadlines, he has at least tried to effect something that reality hinders, namely the suggestion of long years of germination. Through their informality and spontaneity, the School Street in Alenc;on or tbe student viJlage at Woluw-Saint Lambert create the impression of having come into being over many decades, whereas tbey were built within a few years. Decomposition and disruption belong to tbe course of life, and so tbey bave become integral to bis aestbetic principIes. In tbe rebuilt Academy of Expression at Utrecht, breaches in the walls gape widely and teJl the tale of past encraachments. The wounds bave not merely been retained, they are exhibited. Kroll's motive is distinguished from tbe romanticizing of the ruin of some of his contemporaries.The scars and untouched brick record an actual occurrence, not a fantasized one; they document real transformation and empbasize the general transient nature of architecture. When Kroll exalts germination or dilapidation, it is in the hope of pointing the way for renovation and extension. Such an attitude cannot be termed Utopian. Undoubtedly, the society for which Kroll builds is not the society in which we live. However, the one is dormant in the other as one of its possibilities. "We accept the present conditions as a given quantity, as reality, but not Utopia, that would be too easy," writes Kroll.3 The concept of time at work here has to do literally with evolution. It is the notion of an organic time, the single phases of which result through the evolvement of the original confluence. It is the antithesis of the demolishers' time; they no longer know what existed yesterday. For Kroll, the new has its place in and next to the old, not in place of the old. ~ Within this transient structure, the difficult issue in participatory building, which could be called "the problem of the second generation," is resolved. It would seem to be evident that when residents have a voice, the first generation bas an advantage. The medical students at Woluw-Saint Lambert, the house-buyers at Cergy-Pontaise, or the residents of tbe renovated tenements at Alenc;on cauld. within certain limits. determine how their homes were to look. They were aJlowed a say during building or renovatian. Whoever comes after them has to accept what exsts; they have to Iive with the decisions of the first generation. This disadvantage is, however. only theoreticaJ. The ald towns and vllages, which seem to us today to be much more homely than modern living quarters, were also erected by many generations. To inhabit a place also means to become involved with whatever is already there, to come to glips witb it, accept or contradict it. KroJl's opinion is that it is always better to have to live with the decisions of a previous tenant than with those of an architect. Nevertheless, even Kroll has to make decisions of an architect. The outward appearance of his buildings is willingly marked by the different nascent conditions. But in spite of the wide scope between such buildings as that of the stacked brick in the school at Braine-l' Alleud and the perpendicular houses of prefabricated concrete slabs at Emerainville, there is definitely a common signature. Works of the Kroll office are as easily recognizable as those of other outstanding architects. It cannot be denied that there is a KroJl style. Whether it arose for Dominican nuns or medical students, his architecture has a series of recurring characteristics: feeling for detail, multiplicity offorms and materials (to th~ exclusion of elegance and splendor), warmtb, intimacy, an aesthetic ofindigence, from which it can be concluded that commissions fram ecclesiastical orders have played an important rale for the whole production. Franciscan bumility does not exclude certain decorative details, for example the irregular faceting of tiles or shingles on fac;ades - a symbol of individual resistance to ordained mIes and regulations.

.'. Louis G. Le Roy. Stacked rubble wall. .!. SITE. Cutler Ridge ShowTOom. Miami, 1979. 5. Lucien Kroll. Academy ofExpression. Utreeht,


: Louis G. Le Roy. Natuur uitschakelen - Natuur illSchakelen. Deventer, 1973. Ger.: Natur ausschaltenSatur einschalten. Stuttgart, 1978. 'Lucien Kroll. Composants. Faut-i/ industria/~'er /' architecture? Brussels, n.d. Ger.: CAD-Architektur. Vielfalt durch Partizipation. Karlsruhe, 1985. 3 Lucien Kroll. Fr cinc Entmilitarisierung ... (loc. eit.) p.83.


The extent to which Kroll's pencil can be guided by symbolism is demonstrated by the Alma metro station, which is next to his older buildings at Woluw-Saint Lambert. The platforms extend beyond the mouth of the tunnel to allow the integration of daylight. Because this project has only short-term users, Kroll had to conduct "the dialogue" with himself. Tree-like supports carry a roof of triangles and trapezoids. Outside, transparent awnings like glass wings recall the Art Nouveau pavilions of the Paris metro. Kroll conceived this architectural landscape as a representation of the society he envisages. The supports are individual s of varied stature who have come together in irregular groups for the mutual work of carrying. The engineers and stress analysts foisted on the architect a hierarchical system of rafters and panels, instead of a roof of analogous elements, which Kroll considers a betrayal of his planning philosophy. Conversely, for installation systems of housing projects, Kroll prefers a grid structure to a tree structure. A grid joins elements of equal rank. A system of principal trunks and secondary branches, in comparison, makes distinctions; it channels circulation and imposes seweragesystem urbanism on the inhabitants. Such conditions not only affect symbolism, but also touch on the practical factors. A preconceived, hierarchical structural and circulation system would determine the positioning of the buildings, and make freely negotiated balance between space and volume impossible. Symbolism and practicality go together, one is the result of the other. An architect attentive to the words and wishes of people, who concedes to builders a right to participate, while also cultivating a personal vocabulary, Kroll recognizes no unsolvable contradiction even in these circumstances. He believes in architecture as the ultimate personal statement of the architect while being at the same time the ultimate personal architecture of the user. Architecture should not result from participatory processes alone, however, and the sum of the parts should show that it is modifiable and changeable. All the fissures and fractures, the apparently artless and the obviously chaotic, the complexity of the whole and the notable simplicity of the separate parts, the makeshift effect, the crumbling plastering and irregular masomy afford challenges to participate and continue the work, to intervene. The closed form is evaded before it can take shape. Perfectionism is not permitted because it could terminate the most active processes too soon. When Kroll advocates pluralism and complexity. it is these vital concerns that predominate, and not aesthetics or perceptual psychology, which are decisive for Robert Venturi. One of the greatest hopes during the years when Kroll was beginning to go his own way was the industrialization of building technology. Although it had already become clear that mass tenernents had contributed to alienation, there was hope that industrialized building, if only managed properly, would assure the individuality of dornestic architecture. Some who were advocating participatory building procedures believed they could counteract contradictions between the prevailing practice in domestic architecture and the self-determination of the people affected. The party-cry was: separation of the mega-structure frorn the infill; the first should be planned for perrnanence, the other for short-terrn developrnent. In this way, the preplanned, the calculated, and permanent would be reconciled with the unscheduled, spontaneous, and lively. An eloquent advocate for the differentiated and differentiating industrialization was Nicolaas John Habraken, who published his De Dragers en de Mensen in 1961and who was cofounder of the Dutch Foundation for Architectural Research (S.A.R.). He cornpared the supporting frame and the infill with the principIe of the bookcase, which accommodates the most disparate contents within its separate shelves. The primary structure would be the concern of industry, the infill could be left to the builders, or, in the case of an appropriate range of industrialized parts, to the dexterity of the individual resident. Habraken considered a properly understood industrialization of building techniques to be a rneans of firmly re-establishing architecture in society.l Lucien Kroll did not accept the ideology of the mega-structure, which very quickly proved its inadequacies. Nor did he accept the separation of public objectivity and private subjectivity for his practical work. However, that part of the teachings in which Habraken speaks of the necessity of a personal dwelling territory, in which he states that it is part of hurnan existence to leave traces and form one's own world, and where he describes buildings as an interaction of many participants, rnust have been very congenial to Kroll. He almost achieved the divorce of a permanent supporting construction and a flexible interior in the houses for the students at Woluw-Saint Lambert. However, already in the initial building, the Maison Mdicale

6. Lucien Roof oythe dining hall. Diversity of forms and Kroll. mate~oluw-Saint Lambert, 1970-71. 7. Lucien Kroll. Metro Station Alma. Woluw-Saint Lambert, 1982.

1 Nikolaas John Habraken. De Dragers en de Mensen. Amsterdam. 1961. d. Tngo Bohning. "Autonome Archireknll'lInd parriziparorisches Bauen". Basel, 1981.

8. Yona Friedman,

Eekhard Se ulze-Fielitz. Breken-

stadt. 1958. Primary support meture, and secondary completed strueture. 9. Lueien Kroll. Seheme of the supports for the \1aison Mdicale ("Mm"). Woluw-Saint Lambert. 10. Lucien ICroll. Student accommodation and Metro Station Alma. Woluw-Saint Lambert, 1970-82. TI. Work by students on the Institut d' Architecture de la Cambre (Brigitte Helft, Michel Verliefden). Square and metro exit in front of Sto Catherine's. Bmssels, 1977.

I Lucien

ICroll. Unsere Freunde, die Rationalisten. In:

Bauwelt 16.10.1981 vol. 72/39. pp. 1730f.

("Mm"), the supporting parts are, within given measurements, freely varied, causing an inevitable diversive partitioning of space. The supports are "walking," not "marching." Individuality has, therefore, already encroached on the prinlary structure, which, in accordance with the mega-construction theory, should remain neutral. In contrast, Kroll completely accepted the importance of scale and measure and of a c1ifferentiated grid as favored by the S.A.R. Woluw-Saint Lambert became verification for the opinion that a more segmented frame had a less violating effect. I During the years of the student revolts, Kroll must have appeared as the man of the hour. He had the patience to listen to the students, and the readiness to draw conclusions fram their discussions. Only a few years later, the flanks in the architectural debate had organized themselves anew. In Brussels a confrontation arose wherein one contingent is Kroll's "anarchitecture." The other is represented by the cirde of Maurice Culot's influential Archives d'Architeeture Moderne and in the planning precepts of the Eeole Nationale Suprieure de la Cambre. The Archives were effective through exhibitions and publications, the Ecole (where decades before, in 1951,Kroll had received his diploma) through its research in the history of the city, by means of guided tours and, above all, through the projects assigned to its teachers and students. In the 19 independent districts of the greater Brussels area, the architects and students of the Cambre praposed intervention against the traffic and sanitation planning. Block edge housing scheme, squares, parks, and colonnades were to be implanted in the gaps, clearings, and wasteland of the devastated parts of Brussels; often a revitalization of an area was instigated by the furnishing of squares and streets. An architecture of reminiscence became apparent which chose the objects of its deliberations in a partial way. It was based on pre-industrial town planning of the 18th century or on the monumental pathos of the reign of Leopold 11in the 19th century. This style of planning, which was commined to the international rationalism of the seventies and did not disavow the influence of Leon Krier. had merit in reacting to urban desecration with positive alternative proposals. Kroll do es not dispute this achievement, but he is fearful of academic aestheticism, the remoteness of this high culture from the workaday world, and its fixed ideas that conform suspiciously easily to the thoroughly rationalized construction of large building concerns. The prablems of modern building operations that Kroll considers decisive are neglected by these architecture schools. Not a word is heard of decision-making procedures, of the inner structure of the companies involved, about the artisans and the way they relate to the contractors and residents, of ecology, decentralization, pm1icipation of those affected, and the democratization of domestic building and town planning.1 Kroll's architecture aspires to its objective by the unrestrained powerit concedes to all those involved, not through one individual' s poetic blueprint. As irrational as Kroll's built work may appear, it is the product of an attitude based on the conviction that architecture justifies itself only through the will of those for whom it is made, and that this will is capable of rational articulation. In The Social Contraet, Rousseau distinguished between the corporate will, the volont gnrale, and the private will, the volont de tous. Because society is divided into many fractions, there can be no reliance on the corporate will as a moral force; it has to be replaced by the private will, the sum of individual indinations, desires, and particular interests. It holds, therefore, not to counteract conflict in a large architectural undertaking, but to arbitrate controversially. The conflict, whose rationallimits are determined by the architect, is reflected in the profundity of the building. It is not the only impulse stemming from the tradition of enlightenment that motivates Kroll's work. The critical discussion of the so-called constrictive circumstances, which accompany all his projects, also aims at a release from self-imposed limits, whether they are the rsult of the immutability of an inflexible construction technology, or caused by the obstinacy of organizational structures. That Kroll refuses to accept blindly the conduits of subterranean mechanical systems as binding is only one of his instructive attitudes, which could almost serve as a hallmark. It is not the city beneath the city, the suppressed subconscious of the dwelling place that determines life in the daylight. Primarily, the decisions reached on earth ought to condition the consequences under the ground. Lucien Kroll has persevered in his demands in decades of work. To be sure, he has almost always sought, and received, those commissions in which it was possible to apply and develop his aesthetic of conflict, variety, and vitality. Residential blocks, welfare housing, and facilities for religious communities characterize his work - architecture with particular relationship to its users. His work is never the pantheon of anonymous institutions in which the volont de tous

could not be ascertained. Not even the metro station at Woluw-Saint Lambert is an exception; it is an inseparable part of the students' quarter and takes part in its anarchical lifestyle. The Post-Modernist architects often refer to influences from preindustrial epochs, of the baroque inclination for an architecture of representation, or the classicallove of order. At the same time, however, they acquiesce to every demand of the completely industrialized building process. Buildings enclosing ornamental squares or facing street configurations such as those in Montparnasse in Paris, in Marne-la-Valle, Saint Quentin-en-Yvelines, or Montpellier, are peddled as a kind of Versailles of the people. Yet their components are precisely measured according to mechanized processes. For Kroll, such reproducible structural engineering is merely a disguising of the old, aggressive strategies of Modernism. The smaller, financially weaker firms could not deal with the size of projects required for such processes; such work is planned at the outset for the large construction companies and their particular working methods.\ Lucien Kroll comes from a Belgian family of engineers, so he is careful not to dismiss technology out of hand. However, he allows himself to question intent and means. His approach to technology is reminiscent of that of Count Kropotkin, who considered light, advanced technology to be the remedy for everything. For Kropotkin, at the turn of the century, it was the small, electrified industrial production from which the Russian social reformers hoped to develop a decentralized, reciprocal, cooperative cornmunity. For Kroll it is a diversified collection of components in connection with computer-aided designo Seen from this point of view Kroll's architecture, which would seem to owemuch to the do-ityourself of the handyman, has proved to be on the level of a significantly high technological standard. Kroll seeks new building techniques, open-ended systems, which are not only on the drawing board. They should also be realistically compatible with existing structures as well as with other systems. They should respond to needs flexibly, allow improvisation and spontaneity, and make decentralization possible. It was only under these circumstances that he was prepared to become involved in industrialized construction, which had, due to decades ofmisuse, been discredited. The merits of manual building, the readiness lO adapt, the capacity to learn from experience and moderate scale should not be lost, he believes, but merged with the efficiency, the technical, and economical competence of industry. Kroll wants to produce computer programs that do not perpetually repeat less complicated solutions, but which constantly allow for various needs. He approached data processing with scepticism and has remained sceptical, beca use he fears a continued'schematization and desecration of architecture from it. He sees the possibility of control by a complicated calculating process replacing spontaneity, but he has nevertheless discerned some chances in computerization. Without excessively increasing costs, a richer variety of parts could be produced than by the mechanical assembly-line manufacturing methods. If the "good" form of Modernism in its classical severity was expressive of mechanical assembly-line production, then it is conceivable that in the era of the micro-chip, it could be expressive of the abundance of variably applicable components resulting from new design and production techniques. It is typical of Kroll that he is mainly interested in social consequences. He wishes that information processing would lead to a democratization of knowledge and an organization of work that would enable smaller offices to hold their own in competition with the powerful players in the construction business. With the pictorial methods of computer-aided design, Kroll wants to gain a better understanding of users. If the elderly lady, leaning against the windowpane next to her cat, wishes to know if the new houses opposite are going to block her view of the village green, the computer can simulate her future panorama. Better building is only conceivable when people have learned to wish better, more precisely, with more information, and more fantasy. Patriarchs of Modernism, such as Le Corbusier (with whose laconic, but simultaneously discerning diction Kroll's language is similar), anticipated an industrialized architecture in their designs, which they envisioned as being like the products of Henry Ford or Andr Citroen: perfect, precise, and impeccable. However, an approach to the machine determined not by the powerful directors, but by the interests of the user would, Kroll believes, look different. It would be distinguished through the subtile inventiveness of the individual seeking his personal way. It would be the approach of the Sioux who have mastered the computer. It would be an architecture in accordance with the vision of Kroll and his studio.

12. Ricardo Bofill. St. Quentin-en-Yvelines 1975-82.

near Pans,

\ ~.-

13-17. Lucien Kroll. Computer produced representations of a group of houses, Les Rocages, St.-Germainsur-Vienne ("Paysage" program).

1 Lucien

Kroll. op. cit., p. 1734.

In a building threatened by decay, a group of friars wanted to form a subfraternity which would combine respect for the old building with modernity. They did not succeed. I have lost touch with the abbey ....

Cheese dairy. The construction of little roofs, which give the building a more handicrafted appearance, fits in better withthe whole complex than a big one, And moreover, the 1ittle ones were cheaper.


Monastery, Ruanda

Butare, Ruanda/Central Africa. Guest house, refectory, kitchens, librar y, chapel, workrooms. 1968. Client: Benedictines of the Maredsous Abbey. The Benedictines of the abbey at Maredsous decided to found a monastery near Butare so that, one day, they would be able to integrate with African society and customs. They asked me to develop an architecture that would bind them with this specific place while preserving modern objectivity. This entailed a particular regard for the landscape with its hills, huts and houses, fields and vegetable gardens, whose animated lines were void of right angles. Would one have to destroy or integrate them? Ignore them or admit them into the dialogue? Imitation was out of the question (a neighboring monastery had built huts and this called to mind the Club Mditerrane) . The concept demanded the urbanization of the immediate neighborhood (like many monasteries from which towns have arisen), and an internal organization corresponding to the development of the community. (We even played with the idea that one day the 10caJitywould lie in ruins, be overgrown and in some places be colonized by squatters). Its example eventually had an influence on improvised undertakings in the area.


= D

In valious stages we then built a guest house, refectory, kitchens, then the library, chapel, and workshops. As far as possible, we accommodated ourselves to the lay of the rerrain, and provided for contact to the outside world through gardens, courtyards, terraces, and balconies, suggested by the mild climate of Ruanda. Cooling is achieved y directing air currents and protecting the \\indows from the sun, not by means of any rechnical appliances, just like in the pioneer age.

..:...haye been.

-C\yfrom the west o the site between the - ~SDitaland the Sehool o Publie Health.


View of the center of Kapelleveld.

The serrated masses, are intended to bring to mnd eroded rocks, or ruins, which are beng reclamed by vegetaton, or almost a natural formaton that s permanently, but hardly notceably, developng further.

Metro Station Abna

1979-82. The university of Louvain was able to arrange for the neighboring metro line to be diverted through the campus. We were commissioned to extend OUT buildings to include a metro station. We dug it out of the earth and covered it with a molded, colored concrete slab. The slab has flowing lines, and is intended to assimilate the gardens, houses, and paths. The station ought not to be an object buried in the ground, not an incession, but a place of assembly, connection, continuity, also a place that belongs to the district. It ought to be self-evident that the district's routes continue across the university campus. However, this plan, which had already been designed, was not built; a vast gap separates the two sectors, like apartheid.

No single element is mechanically repeated. Even the slab does not rest on severely aligned columns with beams; the columns are arranged more with the slanting frame of the building. Each conducts its own load to the ground as is conveyed by the system of arches and counter-arches. The social relationships ofvarious "persons," who are irregularIy and organically brought together and who can only function in close cooperation, define a naturalistic view of town development: 1. Qne repeated element. 2. Three elements arranged geometrically. 3. Two elements arranged in irregular geometry. 4. Three elements in a natural arrangement. 5-8. The idea of a spontaneously created forest induced us to mold the columns with the bark of a tree from the Ardennes.


9 + 10. Plan of the roof, which is divided into rriangles. This is not a sculptured form to \\'hich material can be added or taken away at \\him, but rather the result of a partly spon:aneous interplay of a series of factors: the forms, the stability, the colors, the modular oordination, the vicinity, the position, and so on.

u. The station as it is integrated in the uni\"ersity building.






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1 + 2. Toward the west, the station is prrected from pouring rain by glass skirting and a hothouse raof. 3. The ancient path has not changed, it leads through its previous raute into the tunnel, which opens in preparation for daylight. -+. The raof of the station can accommodate a few more buildings and trees.


Benefice and Rectory, Rixensart

Froidmont, Rixensart, Brabant. Parish church, publjc library, lecture halls, guest rooms, 25 single rooms and six apartments.1975. Client: Dominican community and the church of Froidmont. A new community of Dominicans formed at Froidmont, in an old Belgian farm with a quadratic shape. They asked us to make a "settlement" out of it, which they wished to inhabit with others. It \Vaseasy to get them to talk; they are preachers. They experience communication rather than the object. Also, the future members of the community made requests: no cloistered refuge separated from the landscape and neighbors, but an urban network which is heterogeneous, but also containing congenial elements. So Froidmont was restructured around the yard of the farm, and the private path that crossed it. A parish church. a public library, lecture halls, guest rooms. 25 single rooms, and six apartments were arranged. They can remain independent. but share mecharucal distribution, and participate in the spirituallife. Instead of fencing off the surrounding land to ensure privacy and quiet, the Dominicans bought it. They intend to build on it one dar to extend their present project for unforeseeable activities. They believe they can then be more integrated with the landscape. The older buildings \Vere treated in a naive way; thev were only preserved if economical, without regard for their age, without pretense, with concern more for their use than their appearance.

The landscape of the estate was to be deter:nined by the Ministry of Works, but these eople were inflexible. An old dream, to plant trees in the public squares, has not yet ame true (anather time ... ).

Residential District Vignes Blanches

Cergy-Poutoise, Ville Nouvelle, France. Competition, 1st prize. Apartments for 150 families. 1977-79. Client: Socit Cooperative les Vignes Blanches. In competition with sixteen other architects we managed to win a competition (the oue and only) for apartments for 150 families in a newly developed area. "No inhabitants, no plans .... " It was difficult to find potential inhabitants and a building supervisor, but as soon as everyone was assembled the discussions soon led to designs. To begin, there were considerations of "landscape" (before they had chosen a plot), then personal ideas (which were discussed in the group). We created an ordinary complex intended to be compatible with the residents. The overall effect was more important than individual buildings. Also, we had decided to push participation to Herculean limits. We re discovered every kind of "urban animalism", which, due to over-acquiescent developers, had been lost for generations .... Fifty-eight meetings were held with more


than one hundred families, who, due to the hesitations and clumsiness of the promoters. kept falling out and having to be replaced with new ones, who fu11yaccepted the initial plans, and supplied a precise, family oriented point of view, far from the welfare development culture. They requested a public square with a butcher's store (none could be tempted to come .... ), a comrnunity building, winding streets, various kinds of housing (nor welfare tenements), similarity to the irregular outline of the old neighboring vi11age,private and public gardens, localities for senior citizens (the coffee-circle ladies), a gas station, quietness, and so on. AlI perfectly normal requests, but much more convincing than scientific pragrarnming. As soon as we felt the matter was mature, we began with 43 apartments (a11different, of course), depending on who cooperated. The sale originality of the architecture consisted in our carrying diversity as far as possible in the building volumes, materials, assembly, colors, and so on. AlI of the usual effort for traffic was scrupulously avoided; the street is a place similar to the houses, not a dangerous strip of asphalt, bordered by sidewalks. It is a raute for every citizen.




Participation of residents cannot be accomplished by mute or incompetent architects without original ideas. The more openly, and t the same time more determinedly the arhitect behaves, the more multifarious the result. It could be concluded that we were an agency for the ideas of the residents, and ecame responsible for them through osmosis. Who knows.

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Here are some of the plans that the residents laid before uso They are not able to read cross-sections. but they can draw them if they are their own. Also the site plan. We used the site plan for interpreting their plans.


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These similar, but nevertheless divergent ideas, produced by dissimilar family structures, could supply valuable material for a contemporary town development that surpasses that of the cold mechanics of the apostles of modernismo Mme T. took her model from a fashion magazine: two skylights, a door with a Roman arch, window with shutters. M. D. owns a small suburban castle. Which culture?


Seen from a distance the group melts into the copious and irregular structure of the suburban landscape.


ZUP Perseigne Alem;on, Normandy. Renovation of the apartments in a ZUP (zone for urban priorities): conversion project for 100 apartments on the Place Ren Descartes and conversion project for 90 apartments on the Rue Flaubert. 1978. Collaborators: Claude Chifflet for the school and the sociologist Paul Wallez.

The welfare housing project, built in 1960, began to disintegrate both morally and physically. When it became known that further building was planned, the inhabitants revolted, voted for the left, causing a new team in the city council. The councilors consulted us on renovation of the exterior, and later the inner areas, together with the residents. Today, one more or less knows what one "should not have done", but not necessarily what one "should have done". Particularly, because some people still think it is possible in our day and age to construct such artificial buildings. But a ZUP (Zone for urban priorities) is only a scheme. Perhaps it would suffice to put in what the residents need to fill this scheme with Iife, in their way. What we wanted were more compact peripheral areas, parks, pedestrian thoroughfares through the district, personal initiative, work, colors, a new secondary school for 600 pupils, a house for children, a yard for the handicrafts, a communal hall, small gardens, and offices. We particularly wanted to get away from the impression of a district for poor people, who depend on the welfare services for their domiciles. We planned a compact cityscape, full of surprises, which lives from within, and shows it.

1-3. They know how to integI'ate their

surroundings, but when they needed social welfare apartments, this is what they were offered. 4. Not an overall plan (a strategic plan). Just reconcile the wishes of the residents, then a very unified mosaic will result from the instinctive needs and daily life of the inhabitants. We proceeded through the beaten tracks that pedestrians had made through the region. We planned the new school and environs within this organic system. Without knowing, we revived the ancient route from St. Gilles, which the surveyors from the ZUP had erased and which emerged "like a photo in the fixing solution."


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Above all, the residents have to be asked during the first meeting, what does not work out: "The automobiles drive too fast on the Avenue Kennedy." Our answer: "No more traffic lights. We shall place humps in the asphalt so that speeding is dangerous, then automobiles will be driven more carefully.

Also, we plan to plant extensively. This wilI fence in the area." The municipal gardeners took the problem in hand. There are never any accidents. The residents in the vicinity sleep better behind the planted mounds of earth, but we hid the storekeepers behind the hill on the main street, and they have never forgiven uso


By way of doing the community a favor, the state discovered a budget item, which had to be utilized immediately in the building of a school. An outside area was rejected in favor of one nearer at hand for fear that a pedagogical enclave, similar to the industrial zones, would arise. 1was asked how 1 would accommodate the school: "Split it up into four or five small buildings, then the draft from the ZUP will no longer be noticeable."


After some unsuccessful experiments with one hundred apartments on the Place Ren Descartes, half of which had been abandoned, and which were to serve as prototypes (the owners refused to cooperate), the city authOlities asked s to set up a real rnodel with a house on the Rue Flaubert. We turned the first and second floors llto offices for the

welfare insurance, renovated and insulated the other apartments, and on the roof terrace (long recognized as a living space, but easily ignored) we placed two light pavilions, with elevators of course. Above all, the intention was to sell the apartrnent to future residents. The architecture is intentionally cornmonplace and popular.


Conversion of 90 apartrnents on the Rue Flaubert with external elevators on guide rails, additions on the roofs, and stores and workshops in the first floor. Only a stairwell and its nine apartrnents were realized.

Our sociologist had asked all the residents whether they prefered to have an extra balcony, tiles in the bathroom, or sound-proofing near the stairway, or whatever. We carefully placed balconies where the families wanted them - a true interpretation of the residents' decisions.

( C(XX)Q



The state ministry for welfare housing development, which owns the apartments on the Place Descartes, was indignant at the idea that residents should be asked how they envisaged the renovation - sudden breach with the city authorities. For a different proprietor, the city charged us with a prototype: conversion of the apartments, external insulation, and adaptation of the first and second floors to offices.


And one evening some store owners, seditiously convinced the residents that we inrended to erase the parking lots of a whole area, whereas we had proposed that they be planted with trees. The al! too naive mayor allowed himself to be persuaded, and neglected to let the groups discuss among them- . selves before a decision was reached. \Vorried about his popularity, he stopped the experiment and quickly instigated surfacing \yith asphalt: cosmetic.


The new town of Marne-la-Valle entrusted us with a project for 110private apartments on a wooded site near the railroad station of Emerainville. There were to be 80 apartments with communal facilities and 30 separate houses, everything designed in cooperation with the future residents, in an industrialized system. The minister of housing had encouraged us to test the possibilities of industrialization. Aiter analyzing the available systems, we decided that we would use a particular product for the apartments, partly because its representatives were sincere and friendly, and their factory was situated in Reims on the route to the site. Although this system presented itself as "industrially manufactured," it was as inflexible and invariable as the others. It had a too large (60 cm) and un adaptable framework, and only a few varieties of windows that were of dull materials, and always had to be installed in the same location. Therefore, we decided on wood paneling for the upper areas, to ensure variety. This was a much used procedure in the past, but rare today. Working with the engineers of the system, we utilized every possibiJity for variation: on the street, in small plazas, in groups, semidetached, detached, with flat or diversily shaped roofs, with every possible facing available, to achieve an inimitable place (repetition is a crime). The 80 apartments were completed. In spite of much effort to achieve variety and expedite "aging" by planting and a charming disorder, the complex still has the slightly vulgar character of the very new, particularly because of the streets which were too severe, too straight, and too conspicuous. Qne ought to visit it in a few years, when it has benefited from the unusal domestic virtues of the inhabitants, which impel them to improve, add to, utilize, and plant their surroundings.

Marne-Ia-Valle, France. 110private apartments: 80 apartments with communal facilities and 30 individual houses. 1980. Client: the city of Marne-Ia-Valle.


The houses are grouped around tbe public square. Access has been made as individualized as possible: from the street, througb the back, via a shared stairway, an external stairway, or even by stairs on a neighbor's faade.

The residents begin to take possession of the exterior spaces. In some places, the street is as narrow as the regulations allow (see ill. p. 123 at the right below).






Data Processing : JJ A construction system consists by definition of a limited number of different elements.

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This induced me to purchase equipment for Computer Aided Design (CAD) and to use it without having too much previous knowledge. 1compelled the computer to be diverse and complex in a way it tries in every way to avoid, because it only likes repetition, stuttering. We had studied every element of the construction program intensively and fed it into the computer, and had drawn the plans and fa<;ademodels, which were necessary for the factor y and for the site planning. At this stage a high degree of sheer effort had still to be expended. CAD still required large applications and was intended for the powerful; but it is not they who are best at creating a landscape.


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Computer Aided Design program for compatible computers. Own solution. 1981-87. After a few years' experience, we decided to develop software for architects. We called the system "Landscape," because it should construct a landscape, not demolish, such as rationalists do. This software has various objectives. To begin with, it should, like other programs, furnish the figures x, y and z in a completely traditional way, for those architects who virtuously practice representation in "2.5 dimensions," and must only fulfill dull automation. AIso, we particularly wanted to produce a synthetic representation, with color and text, that would enable the end-user to imagine the new project in its surroundings. Ultimate-

Iy,we wanted, with the help of precise and verifiable facts, to appeal to the associates from town planning and architecture in a straightforward manner. To be able to design a landscape, the processing system initially has to make an inventory: outlines, trees, fields, sky, buildings, pedestrians; and then with the same means it has to insert the project with all its variants. Then the new landscape can be presented'-to the inhabitants and construction workers, and can be varied until agreement is reached. It is most important that the complexity of differences be encouraged and made possible, especially with industrial methods, which always prefer repetition with a Ule cosmetics. However, one day it will be possible to draw a felt hat and indicate its capacity - and Amiens Cathedral without being reminded of Viollet -Ie-Duc.


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1. This is a modern architect. 2. Standardization of the 50s, the machine likes doing this. 3-5. The structure of the shelter on the Metrostation Alma was abandoned. The machine has to be compelled. 6,8 + 9. Hospital for Contagious Diseases at Siena, intended for a reutilization project with ULAUD, the Saint Lucas School and G. de Carlo. The machine does not like doing this, it is too complex: the hospital has not changed since the 18th century. 7. Siena Cathedral, painted by a naive processor. 10. A diagram of the front of the Palais de Justice at Bruges. Data processing can be of service in the conservation of historical monuments.