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Liège-based architect Daniel Dethier questions the evolution of the architect’s trade. By concentrating on the HOSOMI project, he has placed the building’s life cycle and innovation at the centre of his concerns. This modular system constitutes a precisely formulated answer – from the prefabrication of elements in the workshop and from their possible adaptation according to the needs of users, to the future recycling of their component parts.
In the course of our interview, Daniel Dethier does not mince words about the future of the profession: ‘The profession has changed. Worse, it has gotten poorer! Architects face so many constraints that they can no longer think about either the notion of housing or that of use. They no longer even have the opportunity to innovate. Economic reason seems to have gained the upper hand!’ He then adds: ‘Most buildings currently lack architecture; the underlying reasons are complex.’ In his view, traditional architecture is no longer able to meet the new demands in terms of sustainable development and normative evolution. But the Liège-based architect has no intention of throwing in the towel. That is why he has devoted almost 20 years to developing a modular system that meets the current criteria of performance and flexibility.
In Japanese, the term ‘Hosomi’ means ‘the discovery of everyday beauty’. It is a concept, almost a philosophy that implies interest in all aspects of the construction of a building. The principle is adapted to each project and can be contextualized. It is suitable to both office spaces and residential spaces, individual houses and buildings (up to GF+8), and it can also serve to enhance an existing construction. Off-site prefabrication is the keystone of this virtuous construction method. It makes it possible to optimize work conditions, to validate processes, to exert control and self-control in order to ensure optimal quality. It also makes it possible to control costs and delays. It brings stability to employment and trains qualified workers. The architect’s convictions about the necessity of workshop prefabrication reveal his range of inspirations. Charles and Ray Eames, Jean Prouvé and Renzo Piano are among those who challenged him, forcing him to be detailed, to question processes, to place technique at the service of the users.
The short supply chain at the heart of this method justifies the choice of steel, a local technique, to develop the framework of his modules. It is relatively light and is particularly flexible on a construction level. The wood of the crates that encase the framework comes from a regional business. The life cycle of these materials enters a sustainable framework whose guarantees are measured at various stages, including the work site, the life of the building (low-energy or even energy-producing), of its transformation (changes to the partitions, extensions) and lastly its dismantling (recycling or reuse).
Experience has made it possible to improve details and implementation. In its latest version, HOSOMI consists of reinforcement frames and their columns, and forms a skeleton. Stiffeners are placed at the angles of the low runners in order to raise the floor, while the profiles of the high runners are intended to accommodate the false ceilings. At the extremities of the columns, connecting plates make it possible to superpose modules. The different components (walls, floors, roofs, stairs, doors, windows, sunscreens, etc.) and equipments (heating, ventilation, heat pump, solar cells, electricity, furniture, sanitary facilities, etc.) are then grafted onto the framework.
Architect Dethier Architectures
Official project name HOSOMI
Programme Modular construction: prototype of 11 modules (3 office modules, 4 housing modules, 4 workshop/garage modules), on a plot near the Lac de Robertville.
Procedure Research project /prototype
Client Dethier Architectures
Structural engineering Bureau d’Etudes Greisch
Building physics UCL – Architecture & Climat
Completion March 2021
Total floor area 175 m²