b0b Van Reeth, a monument of Belgian architecture
In addition to being a top architect with numerous remarkable creations at home and abroad, b0b Van Reeth made a name for himself as the driving force and developer of good public commissioning and of a lively architectural culture in Flanders, Brussels and the Netherlands.
Tinkering, the B0B, who turned 80 this year, was born as a child of a talented furniture maker in his spare time. It wasn't until years later, when he and his brother drove past the modernist and groundbreaking housing unit of that other top architect, Renaat Braem, in Kiel, that the spark to the profession really jumped. The so-called Braem blocks in this district of the Antwerp district of Hoboken made him choose to study architecture at the renowned Sint-Lucas in Brussels. He tasted all kinds of art genres. In addition to architecture, of course, film, music, literature and art history molded b0b into an unbridled enthusiast who, even before his graduation, took his first successful steps in the architectural craft: the storefront and furnishing of watch shop Juwelier Cambron in 1965 on the Paardenmarkt in Antwerp. He continued to surf on the same student enthusiasm, resulting in a business complex for publisher Walter Beckers in Kalmthout and a penthouse for him in Ascona, Switzerland. And all this without anyone from Saint Luke knowing about it!
Listing all his projects is impossible, but his career is full of creations with very different functions: living, working, educational, commercial, cultural. Both new construction and renovation. A small selection. The H-wing of the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwecollege (1977-1978), the remarkable black and white House of Roosmalen (1986-1988) on the Scheldekaden and the nearby café-restaurant Zuiderterras (1989-1991), all three in Antwerp. Thanks to the latter two buildings, the people of Antwerp looked again at their Scheldt. In Mechelen, the so-called Museum, Memorial and Documentation Centre Kazerne Dossin from 2012, which commemorates the Holocaust and human rights, is certainly the eye-catcher.
Architect, but b0b Van Reeth was also a teacher and theorist with an idiosyncratic vision. For him, living and living are central to architecture. People and their environment must fit in. That is why he attaches so much importance to good cooperation between the architect and a well-informed client who clearly describes the raison d'être of a building. This concept, called Open Call, was conceived and stimulated by b0b Van Reeth as one of the instruments offered by the position of Flemish Government Architect, created in 1998, in the search for high-quality architecture in Flanders.
Oh yes, b0b Van Reeth? He himself is attached to this spelling of his first name, the result of the fact that a type setter of the student newspaper in the 60s apparently did not have enough B's and o's left in an article about the master architect in the button.