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VAI, architecture museum, Belgien

Museums of Architecture as Virtual Spaces (Part 3): Belgium

The Flanders Architecture Institute
The Vlaams Architectuurinstituut (VAi), whose headquarters are in Antwerp, focuses on architecture from Flanders and Brussels. More than anything else, exhibition organizers regret the lack of exchange with visitors that came with the institute’s closure due to coronavirus. At the time of writing, the exhibition Re-Practice Re-Visit Re-Turn, which features works by architects DeVylder Vinck Taillieu, is still closed. The three subsequent shows about von Schenk Hattori, Sugiberry and Juliaan Lampens have been postponed until autumn, as has the Across lecture series.

But despite all these hindrances, the VAi sees this forced break as an opportunity for self-reflection. How can the digital accessibility of the museum’s collection be improved? What training do staff members need for this? In the long term, how can enough time be found to add content to the database? How does PR work have to change in order to effectively disseminate the many campaigns planned for autumn?

Quite a few steps have already been taken. For instance, the museum is offering online showcases. These are arranged thematically and feature architectural models, drawings and plans from the museum’s enormous archives. Until now, it is primarily the VAi reading room that has been used for this purpose. Under the title VAi@home, an array of further digital offers has been compiled, such as virtual exhibition visits, films featuring interviews and talks, and a map showing fascinating contemporary buildings that are worth a visit.

Along with two other architectural institutions − the Brussels Centre for Architecture and Landscape (CIVA) and the Institut Culturel d’Architecture Wallonie-Bruxelles (ICA), VAi has issued a call for planners, thinkers and designers to examine a question that is currently ubiquitous: How will the crisis affect the spaces of the future? The results, which were submitted at the end of June, will be presented in a publication. A second publication has already been printed: The Flanders Architectural Review No. 14, which appears biennially and is devoted to topics from the architecture scene. The work was actually meant to be presented at a keynote lecture. Because this has been cancelled, the museums are spreading the word via all available social media, and the publication will be presented in a radio broadcast.

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