Architect Lucien Kroll, a well-renowned architect and urban planner for his participatory and collaborative approach to architecture, passed away at the age of 95 on the 2nd of August in Brussels. Lucien and his wife, Simone Kroll received appreciation for their amazing contribution to the field and were lately awarded the Brussels Architecture Prize’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021. The duo established the studio Atelier Kroll in 1958 after he completed his studies at the visual arts school, La Cambre, in 1951. The couple has worked on numerous projects including schools, homes, and care buildings in various parts of Europe such as the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, and Italy. One of the best-spoken projects of the couple is the Alma Matter Station.
Kroll believed that the neighbourhood and buildings in the context of the city were meant to exist to foster human interaction. He was focused more on human behaviour, complexity, and ecology rather than the aesthetics of architecture. He was an architect with a fondness for natural building materials as they live with the weather. Landscaping was always an integral part of Kroll’s designs and he tried to bring his buildings as close to nature as possible. Moreover, his designs communicate his belief about the artificiality of homogeneity in form and materials. It can commonly be observed that none of his walls are built using the same materials, rather it concludes the diversity of sometimes having a mixture of concrete blocks and bricks of different sizes and colours. This was Kroll’s way of building buildings organically that do not impose themselves on the inhabitants but instead relate closely with them. He stressed a lot the preservation of craftsmanship rather than the modern and quick technique of prefabrication. His emphasis on ecological factors that would suit the requirements of the end users of the design or inhabitants and the involvement of these users throughout the design phase was his principal aspects. The Dutch architect Rob Hendriks, who was Kroll’s colleague for almost six years, described Lucien’s approach as follows:
“The way buildings look was a consequence, not a preliminary intention of the designer. He had a deep respect for the context, the history, the landscape, and the people living in it.”
The article aims to give a brief about his design principles by introducing some of Lucien Kroll’s famous works.
Campus Extension La Meme at University of Louvain, Belgium
One of the widely recognized works strongly following his principle is the design of the campus extension La Meme at the University of Louvain in Belgium in 1976. The project comprises student residences along with a medical faculty, a restaurant, and a town hall. Kroll wanted to design the building with the capability of undergoing multiple transformations to suit the needs of its inhabitants. The design significantly involved the participation of the students of the campus right from the gardens to the interiors and features movable partitions and walls in the interiors, enabling a flexible layout.
“To facilitate transformation, the building consists of the independent layers – the construction, the space-diving structures and the façade.” – Architect Rob Hendriks
These independent layers of the structure made it possible for different programs to exist without having to lose the basic characteristics of the building. As it possesses such qualities due to its rich design, La Meme is probably one of the very few existing buildings which do not have to be renovated because of its endless transformation. Additionally, the project also contradicts some of the preconceived notions of mass production. Having different elements on its facade, Lucien has proven that mass production does not necessarily lead to the repetition of identical elements.
Renovation of a Residential Complex in Normandy
In 1978, Kroll renovated a residential complex with the participation of all the neighbours. The architect brought in diversity by varying the upper floors of the building, dismantling it partly, rebuilding it with pointed roofs, building additional floor space, and in some cases recladding it. The overall design improved the general environment of the place and therefore, enabled the neighbours to identify their respective places of residence.
Several other projects of Kroll include Ecolonia, a sustainable housing development in the Netherlands, the residential neighbourhood Les Chenes d’Emerainville in France, the Zilvervloot residential neighbourhood in the Netherlands, and the Dominican House in Belgium.
Truly, Lucien Kroll has left his imprint on this world through his unconventional architectural style and approach. His works are derived from the application of his philosophies and principles of how a building should be and are an absolute inspiration to the new generation of architects. The architecture field has lost a figure who has marked the Belgian landscape and whose work leaves no one indifferent.
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- Carlson, C., 2022. Belgian architect Lucien Kroll dies at 95. Dezeen. Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2022/08/12/belgian-architect-lucien-kroll-dies-95/ [Accessed August 18, 2022].
- Barba, J.J., The collective invention in architecture. Lucien Kroll passes away. The collective invention in architecture. Lucien Kroll passes away | The Strength of Architecture | From 1998. Available at: https://www.metalocus.es/en/news/collective-invention-architecture-lucien-kroll-passes-away [Accessed August 18, 2022].