L’Equerre, a Liège modern architecture review

The review L’Equerre has stamped its mark on the architecture and town and regional planning of the Liège area. Standing up for modern ideas, a long way distant from those in force in its era, it is acknowledged as one of the principal reviews of architecture and town planning in the period between the two World Wars, as much on an international as on a regional and national level. Sébastien Charlier, a doctoral student at the University of Liège’s Department of the History of Art and Architecture of the Contemporary Era, has overseen the academic advisory work for the republication of the periodical’s issues in a single volume.

revue-lequerreThe sole avant-garde review dedicated to architecture to be published in Liège, L’Equerre is a privileged witness to the architectural context and mode of production of the interwar period. Despite the general dynamic publishing output of the 1930s, L’Equerre seems to be one of the few perennial reviews of its epoch. It was published from 1928 to 1939, whilst the editorial committees of the majority of other periodicals petered out after a few publications.

Apart from its obvious historical value, the republication of L’Equerre bears witness to a desire to reunite a collection which had been dispersed throughout several of the nation’s archive centres. ‘Be it in Liège, in libraries which specialise in architecture, or internationally, nobody any longer had the complete collection of the review in their possession. We wanted to bring together the different parts, which we found in three main centres,’ explains Sébastien Charlier, a doctoral student at the University of Liège’s Department of the History of Art and Architecture of the Contemporary Era, and the co-ordinator of this search. The majority of the collection, in other words 80%, was taken from the University of Liège’s Science and Technology Library. The remainder originates from the architecture libraries at La Cambre (ULB) and Sint-Lukas (Brussels). In total, 107 issues and around 1,200 pages were reproduced in facsimile form, a project initiated and published by Fourre-Tout publishers, of the Pierre Hebbelinck and Pierre de Wit Architecture workshop, and produced by the Liège ‘Société Libre d’Emulation’. The academic advisory committee was made up of Jean-Louis Cohen, Joseph Abram and Emmanuel Debruyne (1).

From subversion to institutionalisation

On its creation named ‘Review of the Liège Academy of Fine Arts students’, L’Equerre was launched in 1928 by five students at the Liège Academy of Fine Arts. The group was made up of the architects Emile Parent, Albert Tibaux, Edgard Klutz, Victor Rogister and Yvon Falise. They were joined later by Jean Moutschen and Paul Fitschy. ‘In its early days the review was essentially made up of critiques of the Liège Academy of Fine Arts de Liège. A good many of the texts were jokes and gibes at the expense of the Professors. The review was also made up of humorous pages in which the authors made fun of their contingent. But the most interesting aspect was the publication of seminal texts of the modern movement, texts by Berlage, Van de Velde, and Le Corbusier. Whilst the Academy was teaching the students the historical models and asking them to create extremely decorative opera houses, court houses or museum , these students were offering an alternative teaching: the foundational models and texts of the modern movement.’

(1) Sébastien Charlier (edited.), L’Equerre Réédition intégrale – The Complete Edition 1928 – 1939, Liège, Editions Fourre-Tout, 2012. With articles by Jean-Louis Cohen, Sébastien Charlier, Geoffrey Grulois, Hélène Jannière and Sébastien Martinez Barat, Pierre Geurts and Pierre Hebbelinck.

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