51N4E - C-Mine © Stijn Bollaert.

51N4E - TID Tower, Tirana.

51N4E, a Singular Approach along with a Cultural Commitment

51N4E - Winning project Skanderbeg Square, Tirana, 2008.

51N4E - TID Tower, Tirana © Filip Dujardin.

51N4E - C-Mine © Stijn Bollaert.

51N4E - TID Tower, Tirana © Filip Dujardin.


Centre for Fine Arts
Rue Ravensteinstraat 23
+ 02 507 82 00

Double or Nothing

June 1-September 4, 2011

The first retrospective exhibition to be devoted to the Brussels architectural practice 51N4E shows the practice's approach to space and its cultural commitment, both in Belgium and abroad. At the same time, the exhibition also offers a reinterpretation of the use of space within the Centre for Fine Arts.

Last season they created an idiosyncratic scenic design for the Frida Kahlo exhibition; this season they are in the spotlight themselves at the Centre for Fine Arts for their first retrospective exhibition. The Brussels architectural practice 51N4E has now been in existence for 13 years; they have invited the French architectural critic Dominique Boudet to critically re-examine their work, from their early projects on paper to their most recent achievements in Belgium and elsewhere. Following Robbrecht en Daem, Ney & Partners, and Pierre Hebbelinck and Pierre de Wit's Atelier d'Architecture, 51N4E is now the fourth Belgian architectural practice to be invited to present its work as part of BOZAR ARCHITECTURE's programme of activities.

51N4E is a Brussels architectural practice led by three partners: Johan Anrys, Freek Persyn, and the Flemish Government Architect, Peter Swinnen. It was founded in 1998 and made its name with major projects such as the Lamot cultural and conference centre (2000-2005), the TID Tower in Tirana, Albania (2004-2011), Skanderbeg Square, Tirana (2008-2012), and C-Mine in Genk (2006-2010). In 2004 they were awarded the prestigious Maaskantprijs for young architects. In 2008 51N4E opened an office in Tirana. Plans currently on 51N4E's drawing board include projects in France, Switzerland, and Germany, as well as a vision for the Brussels metropolis in 2040.

The central focus of the exhibition is on the 51N4E approach. For the curator, Dominique Boudet, former editor-in-chief of the French architectural magazine AMC, the subtitle Double or Nothing reflects the practice's fundamental modus operandi, which is to make each project a catalyst for urban and social transformation. Again and again, the potential of the design assignment is explored to the limit. The architects often go beyond the initial construction programme with a view to modifying user behaviour, encouraging encounters, and extending the sphere of influence of the public domain. The exhibition's subtitle also refers to the relationship between client and architect in 51N4E's work, in which the client is requested to review the design assignment together with the architects, to ensure that the proposed answer can create an added value for society.

The •51N4E: Double or Nothing• exhibition is very much in the same spirit. It reinterprets the use of space in Victor Horta's Centre for Fine Arts by taking over three spaces adjoining the Horta Hall. Each space forms a closed circuit, so that the visitor is repeatedly brought back to the Horta Hall, from where he or she can then move on to the next space. In this way the exhibition emphasises the public nature of this monumental hall. In the first, intimate, space, a large piece of furniture is on show that 51N4E designed for the Arteconomy house in Sint-Eloois-Winkel. Images of the house itself – around which the architects placed a three-metre-high steel wall, 12 mm thick – are also exhibited. In the second space the specific context of Tirana, Albania, is presented via a large-screen film projection. Together
with the Albanian artist Anri Sala, 51N4E developed the design for Skanderbeg Square, which is currently being constructed. In the same space you can also follow the story of how 51N4E's TID Tower, situated just beside Skanderbeg Square, took shape. In the third space, finally, the visitor is shown a series of models, drawings, films, and photographs that offer an overview of thirteen years of 51N4E architecture. Specially for the exhibition, the renowned architectural photographer Filip Dujardin was commissioned to depict two major 51N4E projects, the TID Tower in Tirana and C-Mine in Genk, from unprecedented angles. His two large-scale photomontages can be seen in the Horta Hall.

Campaign image 51N4E Double or Nothing.

51N4 - Arteconomy © Ake Lindman.

51N4E - TID Tower, Tirana.

51N4E - Skanderberg Square, Tirana © Filip Dujardin.

51N4E - WET89 © Stijn Bollaert.