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A Studio for Orbanism The living archive of Luc Deleu & T.O.P. office as a source of commons for unsolicited architecture practice.


Sofie de Caigny Tine Poot


Vlaams Architectuurinstituut (VAi)

The house of Luc Deleu, the founder of T.O.P. office, in the city of Antwerp (Belgium), is not only a design studio and home for the architect but, above all, it is a space of accumulated knowledge: a kaleidoscope of collected references and an archive of drawings and models produced over more than fifty years.

This ‘orbanist’ universe – the term ‘orbanism’ was coined by Deleu as a vision for a global urbanism – that exists in Antwerp became the basis for an interuniversity educational project in 2020-2021, when the Flanders Architecture Institute digitised the archive of T.O.P. office. Five groups of architecture students were invited to develop a project based on the office’s immaterial knowledge by producing a storyline following objects found in the archive. As a result, a virtual studio space emerged as a cumulation of different sets of tacit knowledge.

These different sets of tacit knowledge unfold within T.O.P. office as an architecture studio; the living archive materialized in the drawing cabinets at the studio and the curatorial practice of the Flanders Architecture Institute.
The studio of T.O.P. office is fundamentally an unsolicited practice, holding up mirrors. A critical tool here is their Proposals, free and often subconscious concepts of interventions on a global scale, which address pressing ecological and societal unsolicited questions. They escape the confines of architecture and move into the art realm.
Within the archive, the proposals continue to be studied in depth in drawings, which form a laying of this line of thought in space and time. Finally, within a Studio for Orbanism, they were recalibrated by the students to discover uninhabited territories of future possibilities and alternatives.

This object will be presented at the TACK Conference in the object session LINEAGES, 20 June 2023 between 17:30 – 19:00 (CEST) at ETH Zürich (Auditorium HPV G5).

Sofie De Caigny is director of the Flanders Architecture Institute and visiting professor at the Faculty of Design Sciences of the University of Antwerp. She holds a Ph.D. (2007, University of Leuven) in architectural history. She publishes on contemporary architectural culture in Flanders, with a special focus on architecture and memory.
Tine Poot is consultant design at the Flanders Architecture Institute and project leader of the Future Plans- project (2020-2021) which celebrated 50 years practice by architect-artist Luc Deleu & T.O.P. office. The project culminated in a publication, exhibition, documentary and two educational projects Futurum and a Studio for Orbanism.