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Becoming professional practicioners a history of general contractors in Belgium

TitelBecoming professional practicioners a history of general contractors in Belgium
Academic DepartmentFaculty of Engineering, Department of Architectural Engineering (ARCH)
Aantal pagina's336
Date Publishedseptember 2018
Thesis TypeDoctoraat

Becoming professional practicioners. A history of general contractors in Belgium (1870-1970).

It has been said that Belgians have a proverbial 'brick in the stomach' (baksteen in de maag), referring to their urge to build their own house. Building or renovating homes is part of the Belgian DNA. When engaging in such building activities, construction actors such as architects, general contractors and engineers are often called upon. In belgium, the concept of general contractor developed from the 1870s onwards. From then on, it was possible to engage one 'general contractor' who was responsible for both the organisation and execution of a complete construction project, by carrying out the project himself or by cooperating with subcontractors but maintaining the coordination of the entire project. Which preconditions initiated the establishment of this profession? What backgroud(s) did these general contractors have? What types of construction projects did they carry out? How was the collaboration with other building actors such as architects and engineers? And how did the establishment of this professional group influence the Belgian construction sector from a long-term perspective?

This dissertation answers these questions by sketching the establishment and development of the profession of general contractors in Belgium for the period 1870 - 1970. Through a detailed analysis of a very diverse range of historical archival material such as archives of general contracting companies and archives of professional general contractors' associations, the history of the profession is highlighted on different levels, ranging from developments in specific general contracting firms, to the functioning of professional general contractors associations, and interactions with other building actors such as architects and engineers in the broader construction sector. This analysis offers new insights into the functioning of the historical Belgian building sector, in which so far especially the role and position of architects and engineers had been highlighted. This not only provides new historical research insights but is furthermore relevant within the current heritage and conservation sector, in which the role of general contractors is increasingly taken into account when inventorying and protecting the heritage.

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Jelena Dobbels - Onderzoeker

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