• Robbrecht and Daem: Pacing Through Architecture
    Andrea Tarsia, Stefan Devoldere, and Iwan Strauven
    Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels
    Apr 24, 2010 to Jun 20, 2010
    Whitechapel Gallery

Façade of the expanded Whitechapel Gallery, designed by Robbrecht en Daem. Photo: Gavin Jackson.

In April 2010, the Whitechapel Gallery presented the first major solo exhibition of respected Flemish architects Robbrecht en Daem. Specialists in the relationship between contemporary art and architecture, Paul Robbrecht and Hilde Daem have, since 1975, collaborated with a host of artists including Cristina Iglesias, Isa Genzken, Craigie Horsfield, Juan Muñoz, and Gerhard Richter. The exhibition presented their architectural projects, including the architects' work on the Whitechapel Gallery expansion. Six projects will be presented as tableaux vivants that show the diversity of their works: from large-scale to intimate, from public to private, from slow to fast. These newly commissioned films, installed throughout the gallery, will capture and communicate the spaciousness, the cadence, and the structure of the buildings. Blueprints and drawings will be presented in specially designed tables. In addition the display brought together a original artworks by their collaborators, exploring the formal inspiration for a number of important projects.

Paul Robbrecht and Hilde Daem studied at the St. Lucas School of Architecture in Ghent, and founded their practice there in 1975. They have worked alongside artists such as Isa Genzken, Cristina Iglesias, Juan Muñoz, Gerhard Richter, and Franz West, whose art combines realism and historical truth with poetry and abstraction. Over the past thirty years, Robbrecht and Daem have built an impressive portfolio of intelligent and sensorial projects that have brought them into the top ranks of the international architecture profession. Their buildings combine truth to materials and to architectural typologies with their own lyrical vision. Notably, they have devised a system of measurement called the Loue on which they base all their projects. Calculated in multiples of 3, 5, and 7, it represents their silent opposition to the Enlightenment-derived meter. Recent work has included significant public commissions, such as the renovation of the Boekentoren in Ghent, the extension of the Zoo of Antwerp, and now the expansion of the Whitechapel Gallery, London. The breadth of their work, which includes art galleries, private residences, and urban landscaping, illustrates the partners' maturity and diverse architectural skill. In November 2008, Robbrecht en Daem won the prestigious Klippan Award for architecture.

The Whitechapel Gallery was founded in 1901 to "bring art to the people of east London." The Gallery is internationally renowned for its exhibitions of modern and contemporary art and its pioneering education and public events programs. The Gallery's history is a history of firsts: in 1939, Picasso's masterpiece Guernica was displayed at the Whitechapel on its first and only visit to Britain; in 1958, the Gallery presented the first major show in Britain of seminal American abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock; and in 1970 and 1971, the first shows of David Hockney, Gilbert & George, and Richard Long were staged to great acclaim. A broad community impact has always been at the heart of the Gallery's mission. Through its program, the Gallery provides a valued and well-used resource for east London residents, presenting cultural and educational opportunities in what remains one of the most deprived areas of Europe.