Hannes Coudenys is the mastermind behind Ugly Belgian Houses, an increasingly popular blog-turned-book that spotlights the peculiarities of Belgian architecture. Along with images of bizarre structures, Hannes provides hilarious captions which will actually make you laugh out loud. Culture Trip spoke to Hannes to learn more about the development of his blog.
CT: Where did you get the idea for Ugly Belgian Houses?
HC: I like architecture and have some friends who are architects. Normally, if you like architecture you like good houses, but in Belgium there’s a lot of ugly architecture. So I started taking pictures of it.
CT: How do you find new Ugly Belgian Houses?
HC: I do trips whenever I have a spare hour or when I visit a new client or on the weekend on what I call ‘safaris.’
CT: Do you have any future plans for the Ugly Belgian Houses project?
HC: Yes. As of December 3rd there will be an exposition about the project in WATT Ghent & simultaneously in Brussels, in Recyclart – Bringing the houses into real architecture.
CT: Why do you think Belgium in particular seems to produce such eccentric architecture?
HC: The Dutch have been ruling us, France has been ruling us, we have always had to be brave little Belgians. We were finally being set free and subsidized to do what we want. After school, you find a girl, you get married, and you build your own house, and it’s not OK for it to look like the neighbors’ houses.
CT: What has been the most memorable moment in your career so far?
HC: I was once inside a house discussing things with the owner. The man expressed his doubts, until his daughter came down the stairs. ‘Are you the Ugly Houses Man? I knew you would come!’ She finally managed to convince her dad to go along.
CT: Do you have certain criteria a house must fulfill before you feature it on your blog? What defines an ugly house?
HC: It’s a feeling. And it’s thinking about my audience. They don’t like the boring ugly houses. Too bad because those boring suburbs filled with the same utter boring houses is what I hate most. I could never live there; they would make my brain dead. Why can’t you be creative? Even on a budget. Those big firms selling those houses should be obligated to be creative. So I go for the greatest, most noticeable ugliness in houses. It’s what I find ugly. I cant forbid anyone to disagree with me, in fact: do disagree! I like to debate. Mostly it’s houses that use a mixture of styles, renovate houses with no aesthetic feel and things like that.
CT: Has anyone ever gotten offended because they were featured on your blog?
HC: The reaction has been mixed — most of the Belgians hate me, but the people who love Dezeen and Facebook and have a sense of humor, of course, like it.
CT: What is your favorite Ugly Belgian House?
HC: This one.
CT: What do you think is the ugliest building in the world?
HC: Wow, that’s like an impossible question. But I’m sure it’s Belgian.
CT: Finish this sentence: ‘When I think of Belgium, I think…’
HC: …of my beloved country, where I live and that I love to hate.